Where are we engaged in the community? A note from Rev. Kristin Joyner, Director of Community Engagement at Bothell United Methodist Church.
Community Engagement is one way we live out our faith, a way that we can say to the world that we are disciples of Jesus. This is because community is where people are, and it is in the people that we find our connections to one another and to the whole kin-dom of God. Staying within our home and church usually means that we are around people who look and think like we do. As United Methodists we humbly acknowledge that we don’t know the extent of God’s work in the world, outside the church. It is in our communities where we can experience God at work and participate in the Missio Dei.
In the past year, I have worked in various areas outside my local church and in the local community to find areas for community engagement. This work is a lot of listening, prayer, research, sleuthing, networking, and a lot of meetings. This work, however, is the discovery of ways and places that invite us towards action.
In monthly meetings with other faith communities in Bothell and Kenmore, the Kenmore Bothell Interfaith Group discusses the various opportunities for shared resources, ministries and projects. This is also a resource for interfaith dialogue, an important component to building peace and understanding in a diverse world.
It is with this group that we were able to work with the Cities of Bothell and Kenmore for approval and funding to open the Winter Shelter for the first time ever in this part of the county. This shelter was hosted at a local church for the month of October and moves to a new indoor location each month. This shelter uses volunteers for meals, companionship, and even professional services such as nursing and legal help. Send a note to email@example.com to volunteer.
It is also with the Kenmore Bothell Interfaith Group that we have discovered a common concern for housing in our area and have co-sponsored public forums on housing issues and the cities’ housing strategies. We are beginning a workgroup on Housing issues in order to study and advocate for affordable housing in Bothell and Kenmore. This work currently involves attending the City’s planning commission meetings about mobile home parks to hear from the property owners and home owners, and to encourage the City to use their power to increase the availability of housing for the people who work in this area. Message the KBIG Facebook page if you are interested in participating.
Mary’s Place Northshore opened in Kenmore within the past year. They came here because of the recognition that there were no other services for families experiencing homelessness in our school district. It is a wonderful location that can house up to 80 people.
They are professionally staffed but love individual volunteers for companionship, childcare, or hobby or crafts experiences, or musical lessons. Their volunteer training is structured and can be accessed online. Similar opportunities to engage with previously homeless women are available at New Ground Bothell, down the hill from our church. We welcome them with generous donations of material goods for their move-in needs, and also are hosting a monthly cooking class for the moms. I know they would love more involvement with transportation and mentoring.
Monthly meetings with the Northshore School District Human Services Consortium is how I learn about the needs that arise for students and the solutions that exist in King and Snohomish Counties. Supporting the students in our area is a way to build strong foundations and networks that assure student success. This is why we worked with other faith communities for Community Serve Day this past summer and will do that again in 2018.
Supporting the Northshore Foundation’s MILK program in May, feeding hungry high school kids and weekend backpacks for the elementary families is one way we are engaged, as well as hosting youth enrichment programs in our building!
Threads & Treads is the only free clothing resource for families in this area and is supported by many of our volunteers in the sorting room. Because of volunteers, the store is open on Wednesdays from 3-6pm. If there were more volunteers, they would be able to open more often. A Saturday crew would be a big help to families who work during the week. To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City of Bothell holds public meetings in addition to the City Council meetings. These are called “Community Conversations.” Attending, and engaging in these meetings and discussions allows me to hear the broader concerns of the community. It was through these conversations that a group formed in order to hold a community-wide forum on the Opiod Crisis so the public could get their questions answered and become educated on how they can participate in solutions. Cities send out newsletters, you can subscribe on their websites to stay informed.
Hearing about the increasing needs in our communities and the apparent lack of accessible information and resources, I was able to partner with the City of Bothell, Cascadia College, Social Grounds and Lakeside-Milam to hold 4 public Community Resource Days. Volunteers from our church helped to staff those.
As my knowledge and awareness of local resources has increased, I am able to share that with our staff and volunteers. This makes us more helpful with many of the guests at Bothell Community Kitchen and those who come into our office during the week. We know that increasing the awareness of our local resources with all the public – with you – will create more pathways to the resources for those who need them.
Bothell Community Kitchen is continuing to attract volunteers from our community and the guests come from many adjoining areas. It is one place in our community where I am reminded of the diversity available to us in the kin-dom of God, our Beloved Community. BCK has a Facebook page and sign-ups online for volunteering.
We also engage in the community and connection of the United Methodist Church. Riverton Park UMC is in an area of extremely high numbers of immigrants, refugees and people experiencing homelessness. They have a large property that is being converted to transitional housing opportunities and our work team will go there once a month to help in this effort. Information is posted on the Event page for Bothell UMC.
We continue to engage in the United Methodist Committee on Relief and our 4th team will be headed to Salt Lake City to UMCOR West in September of 2018. Contact Office@bothellumc.org for more information.
A team is also going to Jamaa Letu in the Democratic Republic of Congo the summer of 2018 which I will lead for the people from United Methodist Churches in Rochester and Yakima, Washington. A large part of this work is figuring out ways to raise money for educational scholarships for these kids who are ready for college, but have no parents to pay tuition and no local scholarships.
Coming up – we have plans to hold Sunday afternoon forums on various Social Justice topics. These will be opportunities to learn about times to consider table turning actions. We will hear from the director of Faith Action Network, and are working on other topics such as Earth Ministry, Zero Waste education and more.
Community engagement is responding to needs, becoming educated, working alongside people who are different from us and all of it is about building relationships. When working alongside people isn’t possible, sometimes fundraising is. If there is an issue that is dear to your heart, but the work isn’t something you can do there is still a way to be involved. Perhaps this is writing letters of advocacy or maybe it’s becoming educated on the topic so you can talk to small groups about it, or maybe it’s forming a guild with your friends so that you can raise money using whatever gifts or talents you have for the passion or project that you share.
When your passions meet the needs in our communities, you are using your gifts to bear fruit as a disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. If you are moved to action as a way to live out your faith, please contact me at Kristin@bothellumc.org.