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Program description

In the midst of our partisan, polarized, and racially divided society, we need churches committed to coming together to understand how we can thrive together across racial divides.

~Dr. Drew Hart, Program Director

Thriving Together will cultivate congregational thriving within our contexts of racial injustice, and within communities with very different experiences and understanding of that racial matrix. Together we will grapple with large historical, social and religious contexts of racial injustice, and delve deeply into local histories and congregational practices. Our program leaders will determine ways individual congregations can come to be characterized by racial justice and can participate together in larger regional efforts to achieve a just society.

Messiah University will deeply invest in a cohort of leaders from twelve congregations that are seeking to understand how the legacy of race has shaped our region and neighborhoods in ways that vandalize the witness of the church.

Each congregation will provide teams of two or three people who will participate in a variety of seminars, workshops, field trips, and projects from fall 2021 through spring 2023. These activities will foster congregational reflection on and planning for ways their missions can be refreshed and their practices renewed so that they can contribute to the realization of shalom that is an imperative for every Christian community in all times and places. Programming activities and events include:

  • Race and Religion in the Capital Region: The East and West shores are historic and powerful racial boundaries of geography. These places and their leaders, organizations, and churches, will provide opportunities to reflect on congregational mission and practice.
  • Anti-racism and Intercultural Training: This event will provide a basic framework for understanding white supremacy with a theological emphasis, as well as an introduction to the intercultural intelligence and competencies that are necessary for congregations and their leaders to have in pluralistic contexts like our region.
  • Race and Place: Our Race and Place sessions will utilize the scholarship developed by our own Center for Public Humanities, along with other resources, to aid participants in understanding the historical and contemporary story of our region.
  • Civil Rights Bus Tour: This five-day trip during the summer of 2022 seeks to unveil the power of racial hierarchy in American history and its geographic implications.
  • Bible, Theology, and Religion: A second day-long educational session will explore theologies of justice, reconciliation, liberation, and peacemaking, led by our Biblical and Religious Studies department.
  • New Ecclesial/Congregational Formation: Participants will reflect on their tradition, mission, and values, while preparing to discern new congregational practices and initiatives with their local church.
  • Thriving Congregations Mini-Grants: As each team looks to create new ministries and/or enhance current programming, they will have the opportunity to apply for small grants near the completion of their cohort’s curriculum. These grants will both provide incentive for congregations to thrive in new ways, while helping to reduce a common barrier to implementing new programming.

Dates for the first year's activities are:

  • Saturday, October 2, 2021
  • Saturday, January 22, 2022
  • Saturday, March 5, 2022
  • Saturday, May 14, 2022

Applications for the first cohort of Thriving Together have been reviewed, and the first congregations have been selected. We look forward to reviewing applications for our second cohort in the spring of 2023.