Online Training Lesson #7: Examples of bridge building
Building Bridges Series
Building Bridges involves collaboration. Choose carefully with whom you will work, because specific skills, training and commitment are required. Not all religious leaders are equipped to join with other community agencies in a coordinated response to end domestic violence and to offer support to all those impacted by abuse. Not all community agencies recognize the importance of a spiritual journey.
Listed below are 15 excellent examples of bridge building that we have heard through our fieldwork. Ask yourself which might be helpful or possible in your local region.
- A local congregation establishes a morning out program for young mom’s at risk…they offer information, groceries, snack and time to socialize, donated clothing and childcare; Young Mom’s Support Group of Riverside Baptist
- When Pastor Jim moved into his new parish, he invited several community agency directors to coffee at a local Tim Horton’s (on a one-to-one basis) to begin establishing a relationship with them. This developed over time into a strong referral network in their community;
- Susan was a pastoral intern in a mid-sized city. As part of the completion of her seminary internship, she volunteered at the local shelter one day a week, helping in the office and on the crisis lines. When she graduated, the shelter asked her to serve on their Board of Directors;
- In one large Canadian city, there is an annual Student Picture Competition organized by an alliance to end violence committee in collaboration with local schools. The winner’s entry is used as the logo for the annual posters and tee-shirts highlighting the Turn Off the Violence Week;
- All pastors in a small city are invited to an annual breakfast meeting where a faith-based counseling agency highlights their work and invites referrals, suggestions and feedback;
- During a Sunday evening service, there is a panel presentation that involves shelter staff, academics and survivors. The focus centers on how congregations can make a difference in their community in terms of speaking out against abuse;
- In a large US city, there is a monthly “lunch and learn” where faith leaders reach out to community activists and other workers in community and government agencies concerning matters of social justice;
- An organization known as Peace and Safety in the Christian Home (PASCH) sponsors an annual conference where religious leaders, activists, survivors, academics, counselors and other interested people gather to discuss matters of violence in families of faith. Visit their website at www.peaceandsafety.com to see details of their next event.
- A social worker, employed by a community mental health agency, and a member of the local Baptist church, learned of a family that would not respond to her agency’s attempts to provide support. She encouraged a local church—where they attended—to reach out. The ministry to this woman and her children led social service personnel to realize that government agencies cannot reach everyone;
- An inter-faith workshop brings justice personnel and African American religious leaders together for a day of brainstorming and information-giving. They leave the day armed with a pocket full of business cards, a file folder of information and cautious enthusiasm for the possibility of collaboration in the days ahead;
- An emergency room nurse—who is a conservative Christian by faith tradition—works the night shift at a large urban hospital. Sometimes there are battered women who come for help when the local shelter is full. Working together with a multi-disciplinary team, she has sought permission to allow such women to remain in an unused bed until the morning;
- After three different women have approach Rev. Allan Goggins to discuss abuse in their lives, he decides to organize a weekend event in their church to highlight the issue of violence against women in the family. He invites several local mental health counselors to be present at the church on Sunday in order to assist any in the congregation who wish to have someone to speak with after the service;
- A group of church women decide to call the local shelter for training on domestic violence. They want to be able to assist women in their congregation who request help. In time, the shelter contacts the church women for help in assisting some residents who are very religious;
- A public awareness evening is held on a large university campus that highlights the problem of sexual violence and human trafficking. The panel presenters include both sacred and secular voices advocating for action. Local religious leaders strongly support the event;
- The senior pastor of a large urban church meets once a month over lunch with the Head of Psychiatry of the local hospital for advice, referral suggestions and support. Their contact has meant that the church has been able to reach out to those members of society who are particularly marginalized by the closing of in-patient beds in long-term psychiatric facilities in the region.
- When I served as an Associate Pastor in a Presbyterian Church in eastern Pennsylvania we would take our middle school students on a “local” mission trip each summer. It was a suburban church which was located in a nice section of an old industrial town. The mission trip took place on the “other side of the river” – still part of the same town – where we volunteered time with several of the local mission agencies which the church supported. One of the agencies was a local women’s shelter. At lunch time, we had the director share with the students – male and female – the purpose of and the need for the shelter. The director also talked about signs of dating violence. Many of the students were humbled and some realized that they were indeed victims/survivors or perpetrators of dating violence. It was a powerful experience. Submitted by Rev. John H. Seiders, San Antonio, Texas.