GCDD Travels to Indianapolis for a Learning Journey to Benefit a GCDD Real Communities Initiative

Saturday afternoon, five members of Centenary United Methodist Church of Macon and I boarded a plane from Atlanta to visit with members of Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Why this trip?  First, Centenary is one of the eight communities now a part of GCDD’s Real Communities Initiative.  The goal of Real Communities is to create places throughout Georgia that welcome all people including people with developmental disabilities.  The idea is to create bridges between people with developmental disabilities and people without disabilities, who through collective action can change what is happening in their local community.  Second, Broadway under the leadership of Mike Mathers and DeAmon Harges has an international reputation for using an asset based approach to creating a congregation and neighborhood that welcomes all people and celebrates the gifts and talents that each person brings.  We wanted to see how they do this and what we could learn and bring back to Georgia.

This is our learning journey – an opportunity to explore how the people of Broadway United Methodist have brought together this very diverse community.  We knew about the Roving Listeners and Roving Connectors whose job it is to meet each person in the neighborhood and know their gifts and talents.  These Roving members of the community understand that by knowing individual’s gifts and talents they can then connect them with others who have similar gifts and talents and to the community as a whole.  It creates a place where everyone can worship and play a part in what is happening in the neighborhood.

On our first full day in Indianapolis, we were hustled away for a day filled with worship and meeting with people.  It began at 7:00 AM with breakfast at Bob Evans, somewhere on the other side of town.  It seems that several years ago, members of Broadway approached the manager of the local Bob Evans about donating pancake batter and sausage for their annual pancake fundraiser.  In exchange, a group meets there every fifth Sunday for breakfast.  I wonder if the local Waffle House or Cracker Barrel would agree to do the same?

Next we attended four services at Broadway where the doors never close.  Two traditional Methodist services, one “Celebration” service conducted almost entirely by the band and another for a one member attendance at the Korean language service.  After services and another meal – we took time to rest. ( I thought that was the meaning of the Sabbath, and did I need it after four services.)  But we were not done, our final service was at the Earth Share Congregation, a small congregation built around many of the principles of Real Communities and recognizing that if we don’t change some of the social strategies such as access to food or increased transportation options, then we will increasingly isolate more and more people.  Over dinner we discussed how a group of young people, many who were artists, realized the need to revitalize this community.  It was a fascinating conversation and one that made me hopeful about the future.

The message I took away from today was that we as individuals and a society do not need to be afraid of changing how we live our lives.  This means holding everyone in our neighborhoods as equals based on each person's gifts and talents.  It means looking at the assets of each community and building on the abundance of those communities.  Finally, the lesson was about tearing down walls and barriers that we set up so that individuals are seen for who they are and their gifts.  The only way we can build better communities, neighborhoods, churches, synagogues, mosques, schools, states or a country is to recognize that each of us has a role and each of us needs to be at the table.  Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings! Eric Jacobson