“Our mission is to be a neighbor among neighbors; the Church Council helped us become more effective in that.” Associate Pastor Sam Nick Sseba, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, SeaTac

An update from our Community Organizer, Joey Ager:

This February, we on the organizing team at the Church Council were grateful and excited to be awarded a $75,000 grant from the Seattle Foundation’s Communities of Opportunity fund. This funding will support our local organizing work around affordable housing and homelessness, with a focus on partnerships with South King County faith communities.

In the last year, we worked together with more than 30 South King County congregations to invest in the local work of faith communities for the common good, focusing on the urgent questions of affordable housing and homelessness. The work of the last 12 months has been gratifying, energizing and challenging as we grapple together as an ecumenical community with the rapidly developing challenges facing families in South County, an area that embodies the American reality of the suburbanization of poverty: low wages, the skyrocketing cost of housing, and a huge depth of cultural, racial and religious diversity.

As we begin our work in 2018, we are centering a recognition that the future of a healthy and strong ecumenical movement for justice in this region depends on healthy local congregations. This year it is our priority to work alongside local faith leaders and members in a way that identifies and builds on the strengths of existing local leadership, develops new opportunities for ecumenical relationships and action, and builds ever stronger local and regional institutions.

To that end, we have begun to work with local faith communities in South King County to form ecumenical clusters – new shared structures at the local level designed to identify leaders within congregations and offer space for them to develop their leadership in relationship with others. These groups of 20-30 people meet monthly to develop skills, identify community issues, analyze local issues, and plan shared action. In Burien, this group is working this month with City Council to protect section 8 renters from discrimination, and in Kent, we are supporting a local housing inspection ordinance and learning more about the impact of stagnant, low wages on families in the midst of rapidly rising rents.

This structure allows for congregations to identify local issues, develop leadership and build new ecumenical relationships that invest in healthier local churches.

We are filled with hope for 2018, even as we identify the scale of the challenges before us all. For us on the organizing team, this hope comes from the remarkable local leaders we have the privilege to work with in faith communities across King County – this year, we commit ourselves to the resourcing, support, and connection of local faith communities to work together for a just future. We thank the Seattle Foundation for believing in this work and our future together.

Photo: Interfaith Leaders meet with newly elected Kent Mayor, Dana Ralph, in February 2018 to discuss housing, homelessness and wages in Kent. In 2017, Kent’s average rent rose at the 7th fastest rate of all cities in the United States. This meeting was convened and chaired by new Church Council Boardmember, Rev. Dr. Joyce Parry-Moore, Rector of St James Episcopal Church in Kent, and included New Beginnings Christian Fellowship Deacon Roland Bradley, Somali Youth and Family Club Director Hamdi Abdulle, and Kent Islamic Center President Mizanur Rahman, and St James Episcopal Outreach Staff Peter Ostrander and Jenessa Oaks.

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