Story By Lyndsey Schley
Neighboring Your Actual Neighbors
Dave Runyon and Jay Pathak, from Denver CO, discussed their concept of “Neighboring.”
Pathak learned through experience the importance of understanding the landscape of other service providers and working effectively with them.
His church began reaching out to the community through basketball programs, but soon began offering other assistance such as addiction recovery services. During a visit to a government housing project, he ran into a worker from a social services agency. Pathak discovered that by offering services isolated from other agencies, they had accidentally undermined much of their work.
Dave Runyon (right) and Jay Pathak (left)
While he was originally upset by the interaction, he learned a valuable lesson about understanding his community and working with it.
“I started to realize there’s a whole world out there that I have almost no idea how it works and often, helping isn’t really helping,” Pathak said. “It’s confusing. We read everything as though we are supposed to be the center of all power and everything else is supposed to serve us. We actually exist to serve alongside others for the good of the people.”
Dave Runyon (left) and Jay Pathak (right)
Dave also discussed teaching Neighboring as a way to understand and help collaborate with the community. In a meeting with city leaders, the mayor of Denver, CO. mentioned they had learned that a strong community structure can decrease the need for social services.
Runyon reported, “He said ‘If you guys, want to have the biggest effect on our city, you should start some sort of neighborhood movement. You can start another program for elderly shut-ins or you can visit that person who is becoming older and is becoming more and more isolated, so they can live on a block where the people who live around them are reaching out to care for their needs. We’re learning that relationships always trump programs.’”
Runyon said he realized that while loving your neighbor is a well-known biblical principle, many people take it so abstractly that they miss interacting with their own neighbor. He started a teaching series to challenge his parishioners to learn the names of their 8 closest neighbors, a challenge he extended to the people in the room for City Convene. Through this, he and others began to better understand the problems his neighbors had in their everyday lives, and help them with these issues.
“We started to tell people all over our city that what they do in their front yard is ministry,” Runyon said. “It counts, just like serving on the elder board, just like showing up and helping in our kid’s ministry.”
Working Together Towards Racial Reconciliation
Pastor Bryndon Glass of Shepherd’s Pasture for All Nations (SPAN) Church and Pastor Rick McKee of Christ Community Chapel’s Stow campus are working toward racial reconciliation by giving their parishioners opportunities to meet and work together.
Pastor Rick McKee (left) and Pastor Bryndon Glass (right)
Glass and McKee became friends over the years in the Christian community. McKee was ordained by Glass. However, the interaction between their churches really started after Glass shared a video about a racial issue on social media that the two had watched together at Glass’s church. They decided to host a viewing at McKee’s predominately white church with Glass’s predominantly black congregation attending.
The discussion between the congregations after the video began braking down walls and building relationships. “Now our congregations are starting to come together and care about each other and care about racial reconciliation,” McKee said.
Glass said these interactions help his predominantly young congregation learn to express themselves in positive ways about issues they are facing. He said he focused on showing his congregation how to engage in love while discussing painful and divisive issues.
“It says I don’t have to have an anger motivated by the media towards people I don’t even know,’ Glass said “These are friends. These are good relationships. I don’t have to be angry at the other race just because someone is fueling that as part of it.”
McKee said it is important for mostly white congregations to become involved in these issues.
“The majority of folks are white so it would be very tempting so say ‘What do we/I care? It doesn’t affect me and my people,” McKee said. “But to realize the heart of God in the midst of this… This is my brother. This is my sister, so I must care. For me as a pastor not to lean into these issues allows a subtle racism to bubble under the surface, unaddressed.”
McKee said isolation breeds distrust and lack of understanding. By making a dent in this, they can work towards racial reconciliation in their community. In addition to combined events, they also have paired congregants up to meet and build up relationships on their own time.
“We’re just hoping that it spills over,” Glass said. “How can I make it so all my relationships don’t look like me?”
Turning Conversation Into Action
Throughout the conference, attendees were given various exercises to focus on specific needs they could address in their community to continue the work of making the Akron area a Good Place!