Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Community Organizing for Peace and Justice

The St. Paul Lutheran Church in southern Bogota has been searching for ways to reconnect with its surrounding community which, in some ways, has changed drastically over the last 50 years. In discussions with Pastor Nelson and other church leadership, we decided that a congregation-based community organizing model is what they are looking for.

Pastor Nelson Celis of St. Paul Luthern Church in Southern Bogota. Photo by Katie.
While the concept of community organizing is new to the members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, they are very excited to begin a process that has the goal of revitalizing the relationships with the surrounding community as well as strengthening the church’s search for peace and justice in its community. We created a plan for the 2017 year that will involve weekly studies and monthly workshops for the community to strengthen its understanding of community organizing from theoretical, theological, and practical perspectives. These studies and workshops will go until July, when the congregation will come together and make a plan for how to move forward in connecting to the wider community.

Last Sunday, February 12, we held the first workshop after worship. With about 40 people attending the worship service, 22 stayed for the workshop (not bad for an education hour). This group of 22 was also very diverse in terms of age and gender, showing a large range of interest on the topic and the goal. After studying foundational texts and ideas about community organizing, the participants began to map out their surrounding community as well as identifying allies in terms of the search for peace and justice. We left inspired, hopeful and excited to continue studying this topic, and for St. Paul Lutheran Church to reconnect with the community. 

Some of the group that stayed to learn more about community organizing just as we were getting started. Photo by Katie.
Smaller groups mapping out their community and identifying potential partners in their work
for peace  and justice at the community level. Photo by Katie.