Engaging Innovation Column
By the Reverend Donna S. Mote, PhD
Missioner for Engagement & Innovation
October 6, 2020
National Faith & Blue Weekend Update
The inaugural National Faith & Blue Weekend is this coming weekend, October 9-12. The purpose of the weekend is to provide a first step toward reconnecting law enforcement officers with members of the communities they serve by leveraging the presence and influence of houses of worship.
Police officers and departments across the country are aware that significant changes in policing and public safety are needed, and they know that they cannot effect those changes on their own.
Staffers of MovementForward, the Atlanta-based nonprofit that is organizing the Faith & Blue initiative, are pleased that some 350 events, including virtual ones, are planned over the weekend in 40 states.
In the wake of recent developments, including the president’s coronavirus diagnosis, more events planned for National Faith & Blue Weekend have been taken online or postponed.
Given that, Dr. Catherine Meeks has written a letter to the sheriffs of all 159 counties in Georgia letting them know that Episcopal clergy in Georgia (DioATL and DioGA) are available to offer K-9 unit blessings throughout the month of October in the spirit of St Francis of Assisi’s October 4 feast day. The letter should reach them by Wednesday, October 7.
Sheriffs who are interested in having these blessings for K-9 units in their departments—or for deputies—are invited to reply to the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing. If we hear from your county’s sheriff, we’ll put you in touch. Of course, you are welcome to initiate contact with your county’s sheriff’s office and/or county or city police department as well.
We know most everyone has precious little bandwidth at this moment for yet another thing. We hope this letter to sheriffs can facilitate connections. Sending appreciation to all of you for all you do.
In addition to blessings for K-9 units, we are connecting with the mounted patrols in Atlanta, Duluth, and Savannah, seeking to turn a “dog and pony show” into both a canine and equine blessing opportunity.
More information on National Faith & Blue weekend is available here: https://faithandblue.org. If you are performing a blessing or hosting another type of event, whether over the official weekend or sometime earlier or later in October, please register your happening at https://faithandblue.org/submit-event/.
– Donna S. Mote+, Missioner for Engagement and Innovation
September 15, 2020
Announcing National Faith & Blue Weekend
October 9-12, 2020
Bishop Rob, Dr Catherine Meeks, and I invite you to join us in participating in the first ever National Faith & Blue Weekend (faithandblue.org) on October 9-12, 2020.
Atlanta-founded MovementForward, Inc (movementforward.org)(not to be confused with Forward Movement) has created this weekend to urge congregations of all religious traditions to make connections with law enforcement departments and precincts in their areas. As they put it, “At the heart of this initiative is the reinforcement of connections between law enforcement professionals and the communities they serve.”
MovementForward personnel have done an amazing job of getting nearly every law enforcement association in the country to sign on to this weekend of connecting. They take this as strong evidence that law enforcement agencies and officers recognize that change needs to occur and that local congregations can be instrumental in creating spaces where relationships can develop and hard conversations can happen.
In addition, MovementForward has created a great toolkit (faithandblue.org/resources) that makes organizing and promoting an event much easier.
Of course when planning for Faith & Blue Weekend began many months ago, the idea was for members of congregations and police officers to interact in person. Given our current circumstances, MovementForward staff have worked to develop ideas for ways to connect in smaller socially-distanced gatherings as well as online/virtual options.
We invite you to consider some distinctively Episcopalian ways to connect the communities you serve with local law enforcement. Specifically, if your local police department, county sheriff’s office, or nearby university campus police department has K-9 units, consider reaching out to them to offer a blessing of the K-9s. This could be done on St Francis Day, October 4 or “transferred” to one of the official days of Faith & Blue Weekend during the October 9-12 interval.
If there are no K-9 units in your area, please consider reaching out to local law enforcement to offer to connect in some way with them over the October 9-12 interval. Faithandblue.org/resources has lots of suggestions. Also, please consider going to them since their offices are open even as many of our campuses are only partially open.
Another alternative has already been created by Scott Kidd. Scott and parishioners of Church of the Resurrection in Sautee-Nacoochee will conduct a blessing for the White County Sheriff and Chief Deputy, Cleveland and Helen Police Department Chiefs on September 29, feast day of St Michael, patron of law enforcement.
Whatever you do, please promote the event to your people and consider involving a small group of parishioners in person to facilitate observing all current gathering protocols. One or two of them can share the actual event with other parishioners and a wider audience via Facebook Live, etc.
Are you wondering how a one-off event over the October long weekend will change anything? Good! The point of Faith & Blue Weekend is to initiate contact. MovementForward’s main program is OneCOP (One Congregation One Precinct) (movementforward.org/onecop/) which pairs one congregation with one precinct or department for a long term collaboration of getting to know one another. Liz Hendrick and St Matthew’s, Snellville have served as a pilot congregation in this regard. They have been paired with the Snellville Police Department for a couple of years.
If you have questions or concerns, please be in touch with me, Donna Mote, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770.833.2899.
September 1, 2020
No Going Back
I haven’t been at the airport in six months. After being at ATL nearly every week for nearly seven years, it is difficult for me to wrap my head around this fact.
What is my ministry without the primary context of the airport? Who am I without my ministry? What will airport chaplaincy look like on the other side of this pandemic? Will it even exist?
Are you asking similar questions about yourself, your ministry, and your context?
Coronatide is proving to be quite a protracted season. Still in the midst of it, we don’t know how long it will last. Even more than in pre-pandemic days, we are aware of uncertainty.
I find comfort in the science that indicates that circumstances of uncertainty are the most stressful ones of all. I don’t mean that the science makes me comfortable but rather that remembering it helps me make sense of what I’m feeling.
The human brain has evolved to love a story—a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. When we are in the middle, as now, the brain exhausts itself and wears the rest of us out as well trying to find an ending. Any ending, even a sad or calamitous one, brings the narrative to rest.
What stories are you telling yourself and others as your brain searches for an ending? Are they more oriented toward the past or the future?
In the middle, we often long to return to the familiar. Witness the people of Israel during the exodus. Faced with unanticipated wilderness trials en route to a promised future in a new place, the old familiar suddenly seemed preferable even though, in their case, the old familiar was slavery.
There is no going back. There is no returning to how things were. There is only moving forward to something new, toward God’s unfolding future.
This in-between space where we currently find ourselves holds the unprecedented opportunity of our lifetimes to participate in the creation of what will be.
What is God calling us to now and next? What is our part and who are our partners?