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         Sider Endorsement - On Power - Wheaton Professor - Rev. Youngblood - Community Organizing 
         Community Development - Democracy - Linthicum




Peter Phillips, Executive Director 
FOCUS (Federation of Congregations United to Serve) 
Orlando, Florida 

"Community organizing has had a long association with congregational life and the faith element it represents. . . . We believe that action and spiritual renewal work hand in hand. Leaders need to stop and reflect on their experiences to grow personally and spiritually. 
For leaders of FOCUS (Federation of Congregations United to Serve) in Orlando, this means taking the time to do it. Following eight months (including summer) of continued local and federated action, people were clearly showing signs of wear. The organization had achieved impressive victories including a $1.1 million 
commitment for eleven new comprehensive after-school programs, a new County Nuisance Abatement ordinance, and the commitment by the newly elected County Chairman to a Comprehensive Plan for Youth. However, continued action would have weakened the organization. Seeing this, the organization declared a break from all organizing activities except research and focused its attention on reflection. 
Five congregations held one or more sessions led by their pastors for leaders and others in the church. These faith-sharing groups looked at scripture and other readings. The discussions were exciting. “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew Chapter 5) became a wake-up call to develop a strategy to reach out to other congregations and a local housing project. A Catholic parish discussed “Communities of Salt and Light”, the 1993 U.S. Conference of Bishops pastoral 
reflection. This gave leaders a new understanding of their own church and its faith commitment to communities. Ezekiel (Chapter 37) has been read by leaders as a call to see how God is giving hope and vision for the City. Christ’s journey into the desert to pray, reflect, and heal was used as a lesson for leaders in both their public and private lives. 
A strong clergy caucus has helped to sustain this effort. Discussions among pastors helped to clarify the relationship between faith and organizing. Pastors connected the organizing with the overall role of the congregation and its’ growth spiritually. These pastors see the faith actions in community giving spiritual life to the church. In a couple of cases the faith-sharing led into a form of discipleship where leaders went out two by two to give brief reports to committees and 
ministries in the congregation. These 3-5 minute “enactment” reports gave updates on results of actions, and thanked those for attending. Sometimes questions would come up in these small groups that led to a better understanding of the organization’s work. During this period of low public visibility there was some anxiety on the part of the Executive Director. Would lack of action lead to lack of interest? We learned that reflection was a powerful and effective 
complement to sustained organizing activity. Rather than weakening the interest in organizing, the break for reflection actually deepened and fortified the commitment of leaders. 
 Pastors and organizers have noted numbers of leaders who have gone through a spiritual journey resulting in a deepening of their relationship with God. Here is when organizing becomes for the first time faith-centered. God’s presence is felt not only in worship but comes to life in the almost unearthly miracles of the work. These people now view their personal growth, their relationships with other leaders across the city, and the response of elected officials in a faith contect or spiritual dimension. They have never seen anything like it. . . . Organizing will always be considered “another ministry” until it penetrates the life of the congregation. The gap will only be closed when the spiritual development of our people matures to encompass organizing. When it does, I see pastors and their members moving people in new ways we have not seen. 

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