By Vern Rice, Local Mission Partners Chair and Christine Fifield, Communications Coordinator
Since its founding, Christ the King has prided itself on reaching out to the neighborhood. Now, a new group of members—adopting the title of “Listening to Our Neighborhood”—is committed to seeing this important work into its next phase.
Where we’ve been
It could be said that this movement ignited after the 2015 Saint Paul Area Synod Assembly when a group of CtK voting members heard keynote speaker Pastor Heidi Neumark. She spoke of leading her New York City congregation in their response to a changing neighborhood. After first locking its front doors, the church took a calculated risk. They walked out the front door and out into the neighborhood. “I took time to begin getting to know the members of the neighborhood,” Pastor Neumark said. “I visited homes and walked the streets. I talked with community leaders, shopkeepers, and drunks on the corner.”
With this new kind of outreach, the church began to build relationships in the community that blessed both the church and the neighborhood. Inspired by this transformative story, a few of those who had attended the assembly including Pastor Peter, met to explore new ways CtK could listen to the neighborhood and what that might mean for this congregation.
That summer, Judy Hill—CtK member and active participant in CtK’s Global Mission Team—partnered with Communications Coordinator Christine Fifield, and Local Mission Partners Chair Vern Rice on a Herald article to spread this message: in order to live out our call as followers of Christ, we needed to spend more time listening to and walking alongside our neighbors. (Read that story here.)
The next step in this journey came from Kairos—the consulting firm that led CtK’s most recent capital appeal. Following Kairos’ suggestion, in November of 2015, we invited city leaders—New Brighton City Manager, city demographer, principal of Highview Middle School, and Director of Community Partners with Youth (CPY)—to lead a panel discussion on the status of the neighborhood.
They illuminated many of the underlying realities facing our community:
- Highview has 47 percent minority students and a few who are homeless.
- The students there speak twenty-seven native languages.
- Ninety percent of CPY students receive scholarships to attend that program.
- And, New Brighton has a very low housing vacancy rate at two percent.
These findings informed a recent SALT (Sunday Adult Learning Time) presentation on Oct. 16, 2016 that was aptly titled, “Listening to Our Neighbors.” Many were surprised that—despite recent surges—immigration actually peaked in Minnesota in 1890. The session concluded with an interest in having a follow-up SALT session to continue listening to the neighborhood in a deeper way.
Where we’re headed
A new burst of energy now comes to this work as the team will be led by congregation consultant and author Joy Skjegstad. As this work enters its next phase, participation from the congregation will be absolutely essential. Join this journey by attending a special SALT session on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 9:30 a.m. Joy will lead a conversation about how she will help CtK to evaluate our current community programs and partnerships, engage in a process of listening and building relationships with our neighborhood, and finally, develop a vision and plan for community engagement.A special thanks goes to the CtK Foundation for providing the grant necessary to proceed with the next steps in Listening to Our Neighborhood.
We believe this is a way for us to continue to engage in God’s mission with CtK and our neighborhood! We invite you all to join us on this journey of faith.