Engaging in Equity: Introducing NBA’s Community Engagement Program

Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing a series of articles that tell the story of how and why our new Community Engagement program was created. This piece is part one. 

Since the NBA’s founding in 1887, there has been a central theme to our mission work: to accompany Disciples as they create communities of compassion and care.

Over the last several years, NBA has heard and responded to many calls for justice, equity and healing. In 2014, as part of the Disciples Church response to the shooting death of Michael Brown by former Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, NBA worked to support clergy and community activists in their ongoing efforts for justice and racial reconciliation. Community forums were held and resources for advocacy and learning were produced including the documentary, Injustice Anywhere. We brought together community organizers to form an Activism & Advocacy Peer Learning & Wellness Group.  We lead a delegation of pastors, organizers and Disciples leaders to San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, for an Immigration Detention Immersion Trip that highlighted prison and jail, mental health, and immigration issues at the border.

Rev. Dr. Dietra Wise Baker led a walk down Delmar in St. Louis, Missouri. The street shows the stark difference in how white communities and communities of color are living in the city.

The work of supporting communities engaged in social justice work doesn’t just exist in these moments. These instances of injustice are daily struggles and NBA is committed to doing this work in intentional, consistent ways. As the health and social service ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) our commitments to being an anti-racist/pro-reconciling organization are mirrored by the denomination as well. NBA does and will continue to do this work in partnership with communities.

“The last six years have helped us more fully align our work in accompanying Disciples-related health and social service and justice ministries with our particular role as a general ministry in addressing concerns of systemic injustice, like our efforts around prison and jail related issues,” says NBA Vice President of Organizational and Leadership Development Rev. Monica Wedlock Kilpatrick. “Creating the new NBA Community Engagement program allows us to weave these areas together in more dynamic ways, forge new partnerships in the fight against injustice and support the needs of Disciples leaders, both clergy and lay.”

NBA’s Community Engagement Program consists of three emphasis areas: Leadership Development, Advocacy & Activism, and Collaborative Partnerships.  Each of these emphasis areas allow NBA to address the vastness of accompanying congregations, health and social service ministries and local organizers as they engage in justice work.

In addition to the three emphasis areas, the Community Engagement program will address the root causes of social injustices. The program will work collaboratively across all NBA program areas. Specifically, the Community Engagement Program will highlight the ways communities of color are disproportionately affected by these issues. We will support emerging leaders responding to local justice issues through collaborative partnerships and best practices in community organizing. We will continue to share resources on how congregations and individual Disciples can support social justice movements happening inside and outside the life of the church.

The group that attended the 2019 Immigration Detention Immersion Trip consisted of pastors, community organizers and young adults.

“It’s inadequate to respond only in moments of obvious injustice, those moments when the country’s and even the church’s attention is focused on a particular tragedy or pressing issue, but that kind of inconsistent response contributes to injustice,” says NBA Executive Vice President Rev. Rebecca Hale. “The work of justice requires sustained attention, consistent resourcing, and the kind of accompaniment with one another that is marked by intentional engagement. I am excited about the ways the launch of this program gives voice to NBA’s robust commitment to working alongside our partners in the long work of creating just,  compassionate communities.”

To learn more about NBA’s community engagement and social justice work, read through our other stories here. In the coming days, we’ll share a story where you can get to know the Director of Community Engagement, Rev. Héctor J. Hernández Marcial.