WPAUMC Mission Engagement Coordinator Sandra Matoushaya was one of the participants in “Rooted in Relationship", a three-day gathering hosted by the General Board of Church and Society for experts in relationship-based justice ministries that address the root causes of poverty.
The event grew out of Church and Society’s learning and conversations about relation-based anti-poverty ministries over the past quadrennium. Rooted in Relationship allowed ministry leaders to foster connections for co-learning, sharing resources, and collaboration.
“This time with experts in the field of doing justice ministries with the poor has been one the most informative, supportive, and inspiring conferences,” said Mary Lewis Dassinger, a participant from the Arkansas Conference. “I’m hope-filled that ministries in Arkansas will become more effective with compassionate care to transform the world as I share with them about trauma informed care, root causes of poverty and strong examples of ministry WITH the poor.”
Dassinger is the Program Coordinator for 200,000 Reasons, a ministry of the Arkansas Conference to fight child hunger.
Another participant, Shellie Ross from the North Texas Conference said, “Rooted in Relationship completely flips the power dynamics in the room. Most conferences assume what others need, hiring experts to teach groups of people. [Church and Society] consulted participants on the conversational topics and sought facilitators within the group. When doing so, the value of a conference is no longer based on applicable topics/workshops but relationships.”
Participant-led workshops addressed common challenges to anti-poverty ministries and sharing expertise and challenges. Attendees came from all five U.S. jurisdictions, and represented urban, rural, and suburban community ministries.
Amber Feezor, Engagement Program Coordinator at Church and Society, said, “Relationship-based ministry emphasizes learning from lived experts. This event, designed and led by ministry leaders, has attempted to do likewise by elevating the voices of those engaged in relationship centered models every day.“
Over the 2017-2020 quadrennium, Church and Society identified over 400 ministries across the Connection that focus on relationship building ministries—surpassing its goal. Conversations with conference leaders focused on what “ministry with” means and emphasized the causes of poverty, rather than symptoms.
“Connecting with United Methodists who are engaged in deeply transformative ministries in their communities has been inspiring and has expanded our collective understanding of what justice looks like,” said John Hill, Deputy General Secretary.
Amid questions about the future, Rooted in Relationship reminded participants about the consistent need for churches and conferences to engage in relational ministries alongside those most directly impacted by injustice.
"If we are to build a movement for lasting change, we must continue to listen to the voices, learn from the experiences, and follow the leadership of those who are most impacted by our broken systems,” said Hill.
Ministry With is one of Four Areas of Focus of The United Methodist Church. The initiative represents the church’s ongoing work to move anti-poverty ministry from a transactional model “to” others, toward a relationship-based partnership model “with” others.
Photos of the event are available here.