Christ's Church, Better Together

Christ's Church, Better Together

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When Church Leaves the Building

“God’s Work, Our Hands” and “Christ’s Church, Better Together” are slogans that I’m sure many of the people in the Rocky Mountain Synod have heard before, which makes sense as they are the ELCA and RMS slogans. The Aurora Church Together Strategy (ACTS), composed of St. Matthew, St. Marks, Bethel, All Saints, and HKBP Montclair congregations, has taken these slogans to heart.

Acts is an Area Ministry Strategy. What's an Area Ministry Strategy, you say? Well, an Area Ministry Strategy is a group of churches that come together with three goals in mind: individual spiritual growth of the members, congregational renewal of the participating congregations, and collective impact in the community.

What makes  ACTS’ work unique is that they don’t just aim to help people in their community through charity, they try to get at the root causes of what is causing problems for people in their community. Within their community work, they found that their community was most affected by  poverty, hunger, and social justice.

Battling the root causes of poverty and hunger can seem like an insurmountable task, but ACTS has been working at it piece by piece. Deacon Cindy Robles serves as the Area Ministry Strategy Coordinator, and she describes their work as accompaniment. When working with the community, they ask how they can walk with their neighbors in a loving way.

In order to engage with the community, ACTS has started doing what they call Block Parties. ACTS will be hosting block parties in the parking lots of the congregations, and they will have lots of games, mobile playgrounds, and other fun activities for families to engage in. Even more importantly, they also host many different non-profits such as the Aurora Time Bank, the Salvation Army, non-profit health groups that have mobile blood pressure and blood sugar tests, and many more, the goal being to connect people in their neighborhood to resources they need. ACTS last block party, hosted by St. Mark's, had 300 people from the surrounding neighborhood attend.

But, why does this matter? Aurora has an extremely high immigrant and refugee population. Well over 100 different languages are spoken in the Aurora public school system. There is a great need in the community for help. There is a great need for assistance with food and clothing because some families can only afford to pay rent each month. There is a great need for English classes (which two churches in ACTS already offer) so that people can communicate with their neighbors as well as find jobs that require speaking English.

And, most importantly, ACTS is focused on building relationships and creating community in the neighborhoods that they are in. Each act of service is also designed to allow the people of the congregations to meet the people in the neighborhoods and to interact and hear each other’s stories. Accompaniment isn’t just charity work, it’s walking with the people of the community, and living life with them. It’s relationships.  

The Aurora Church Together Strategy has only been in existence for 18 months, and yet their work is tangible and already making a difference in their community. They continue to grow and develop and make new connections with different people and non-profits. The future looks bright for ACTS and the Aurora community. As Deacon Cindy Robles said, “We’re here to love God and to love our neighbor.” And that is exactly what they’re doing! For the people of ACTS, church expands beyond the confines of their church walls.

God’s Work. Our Hands. What are the needs in your community? What can your church do or what is your church already doing to meet those needs? How can you walk with the people in your community? May we all find ways that we can do God’s work and share God’s love in our lives!

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