Punxsutawney Phil had a much smaller spotlight on February 2nd this year because hundreds of advocates were out in Olympia for Housing and Homeless Advocacy Day, learning about the need for affordable housing, how family homelessness can be ended, and meeting with legislators to compel them to take action on local needs. Four members of the Associated Ministries’ team were honored to be among that crowd of activists.
“My experience at Advocacy Day was both empowering and enlightening,” said Andrea McKinney, who works in Centralized Intake as a Screening and Diversion Specialist. “I had heard of Advocacy Day for unions but had never attended one myself. What really stuck out to me was the opportunity to increase my knowledge and sit with those advocating that housing should be a right, not a privilege. Even the elderly and disabled have barriers to affordable rental housing in front of them. Family size, race, and sexual orientation—against fair housing laws–are still finding their way into rental decisions. Your source of income can determine whether a landlord rents to you–it shouldn’t be like that but right now that’s within the law.”
Everyone should have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home.
Thursday, March 2nd, marked the halfway point of this year’s 105-day legislative session. But our work as a community continues. Your voice is important. Your legislators need to know what you think about the crisis of homelessness and the ideas you support to be enacted into policies and laws. Your action makes a difference. Your advocacy changes lives.
A great place to learn more and get the most current updates is www.wliha.org.
Vania Kent-Harber, Sacred Activism at the Interfaith Women’s Conference
The first workshop to fill up at AM’s March 4th Interfaith Women’s Conference was Sacred Activism: Creating Peace Through Contemplation and Action. Vania Kent-Harber led the workshop and I was one of the lucky attendees.
The teaser for the topic was this: Our world is so frantic – and we all need the balance that follows quiet contemplation. Vania explored the connection between contemplation and action and how this connection is rooted in all of our faith traditions to give our lives meaning, purpose, and peace.
Vania said she was influenced by the work of Andrew Harvey and characterized Sacred Activism as a kind of midwifery. In Harvey’s words, “When, however, the deepest and most grounded mystical vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic, and social institutions, a holy force and power of wisdom in action is born, a force and power that can re-fashion all things in and under God, and bring humanity, even at this late desperate hour, into harmony with its self and original nature. This force of Sacred Activism I believe will be the source of the birthing power that humanity will need to create a new world from the smoking ashes of the one that is now passing away.”
These were some of the themes that arose during the workshop:
Activism is railing against the world. Sacred activism is a response to the moment.
Sacred activism is coming face to face with the real, with willingness to be broken open by it.
It is solidarity in the suffering of God and collaborating with God. A way forward always comes if we are attuned to listening.
A Jewish woman who came to one of her past workshops gave Vania interesting new definitions for obedience and humility rooted in Jewish thought.
This quote from Mark Nepo gives a good sense of the definition of obedience that Vania shared:
To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.
Humility is conceived as limiting oneself to an appropriate amount of space, whileleaving room for others. Vania emphasized the key concept of taking up the appropriate amount of space for the situation. This could mean giving space to others, but women often don’t take up enough space. She said, if truly humble, we find the courage to step into our gifts.
Vania Kent-Harber is a yogi, contemplative, and writer exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism, and social change.
Good news if you want to learn more from Vania! She is a co-founder and co-director of Samdhana-Karana Yoga, a nonprofit healing arts center in Tacoma, and has over 1,000 hours of teaching experience focused on underserved populations for whom yoga is not readily accessible.
If you or someone you know is ready to play a critical role in serving the vulnerable in our community, three local agencies that partner with AM are seeking to fill key leadership roles. We encourage you to spread the word about these unique career opportunities. Please contact each agency directly with any questions you have.
Once each month our Executive Director, Mike Yoder, sends out an email highlighting engagement and educational opportunities that may be of interest to Pierce County faith leaders (see a copy of the latest issue). Your congregation should subscribe! If your congregation’s pastor or outreach coordinator does not receive this email, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to add them to our list!
In 2016, Associated Ministries received a grant of $40,000 from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound (ECF-Boeing Puget Sound) for the greater part of a multi-faceted Client Safety and Security Project. With their grant, we were immediately able to upgrade our security system and install six video surveillance cameras outside AM’s direct service center. By the end of April, we will acquire a new data-management copier with high security for client documents and we will finish installing solid-core interior doors for better protection of clients, staff and volunteers within the building.
We couldn’t take these important steps without the support from the ECF-Boeing Puget Sound!
The Hilltop Action Coalition, Hilltop business Association, 8th & I Neighbors and AM have done great work together to increase the safety of the Hilltop over the years. But throughout 2016 we had to take action again. Our staff often intervened to keep the vulnerable people who were waiting for our services from becoming targets for drug dealers and others. Our grounds were being used at night as a gathering place and dumping ground for debris.
We invited Tacoma Police Community Liaison Officers to advise us on best practices for keeping our clients safe in a neighborhood beginning to trend towards a higher crime rate again. Installing security cameras around our building was a key measure. The cameras enable us to provide actionable evidence to authorities against those preying on our clients and we can safely monitor hidden corners to stop criminal activity day or night.
Our building also needed to be more defensible against unsettling instances of violence in the Hilltop. Our flimsy interior doors are no protection against aggressive or armed intruders. ECF members on their visit to Associated Ministries readily agreed that replacing all of them with durable doors and frames was a vital step that needed to be taken.
Finally, a less visible security threat was being posed by our electronic handling of client documents. To keep our client data secure, the ECF allocated grant funds for part of the cost of a data management system. This system will allow us to scan client information directly into secure files, receive encrypted fax documents, and safeguard client identity documents.
Associated Ministries is extremely grateful for the support from ECF, an employee-owned charitable giving program managed by Boeing employees. Without question the employees who make the fund possible have a big heart for the needs of people experiencing poverty and homelessness in our community. Their generosity has afforded us ways to improve safety and security for vulnerable people coming to Associated Ministries for assistance. They have given us tools to improve our neighborhood environment and make it safer.
Thank you Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound!
The Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound, known as ECF, is an employee-owned and managed charitable giving program. Since 1951, generous Boeing employees have contributed over $600,000,000 to local Puget Sound nonprofits. ECF grants enable local Health & Human Service agencies to purchase much-needed equipment, renovate their facilities and build new construction that directly benefit their clients.
We couldn’t wait to give you a sneak peak of our results in 2016 (This infographic covers through November). A full Impact Report with financial information will be published by the end of March. You have touched many lives in our community through your support of Associated Ministries. We’re appreciative beyond words that you’ve chosen to be on our team!
The dialogue of the evening was from a Christian perspective, around important but under-told dimensions of our civil rights story as Christians, the challenge whiteness presents for justice-loving Christians of all racial and ethnic identities, and exploring ways a shift from reconciliation to repair—a shift which is in line with the gospel of Christ—might be pursued.
You can view a recording of Dr. Harvey speaking before a Unitarian Universalist audience on this same thesis:
The workshop included small group discussions across church affiliations and closed with shared ideas about the “Now what?”–the meat of the conversation that drew so many folks out on a dark, rainy night in the middle of the week. Attendees named the collaborative work being started in their own congregations and their desire to expand in partnership with others. The host congregations promise more to come by way of notes generated by workshop attendees and references for further study and dialogue.
Here are some questions you can consider to begin a “Now what?” dialogue:
What is your congregation doing on racial justice right now?
What challenges or inspires you about repair as an alternative model or vision for racial transformation?
Associated Ministries (AM) is sad to announce that by the end of December, after 3 years in operation, the Youth Advancement & Housing (YAH) program will be closing operations of the two residences in the Graham area.
The YAH young men’s residence.
Every year the YAH program successfully received competitive funding through Pierce County Community Connections to operate this vital program in the Bethel School District. But in addition to being competitive, funding for transitional housing programs has continued to decrease over the last 2 years in Pierce County and throughout the nation. Tough decisions were made to best manage the very limited resources that are available within the homeless system and this year YAH and several other programs did not receive the level of funding they requested.
The YAH young women’s residence.
This news has been met with deep sadness and concern from our young adult clients still living in the YAH homes. Associated Ministries is committed to preventing all of our residents from entering homelessness following the closure of the YAH program and AM staff are working with them to find immediate housing.
We would like to extend our immense gratitude to our esteemed partner and guide, the Bethel School District, for working alongside Associated Ministries over the last 3 years, devoted to the well-being of students experiencing homelessness in their district. Thank you for helping us and the entire community understand the persistent work and heart necessary to ensure that unincorporated Pierce County has advocates and resources for the most marginalized members of their community.
We are also grateful to the Spanapark Lions, Eagle Scouts, Kiwanis Rotary Club, Key Bank, and so many more individual community members who hoped to support and connect with YAH residents. Thank you all.
Our hopes for solutions does not end with the YAH program. Associated Ministries will continue to build relationships and partner with others in the cause of ending child, youth and young adult homelessness throughout Pierce County.
Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist religious leaders met mid-September in Assisi to discuss peace, while across the ocean in New York City global political leaders assembled at the United Nations also focused on a troubled world.
And in Tacoma, Temple Beth El hosted the first meeting of a monthly Interfaith scripture study with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Bethany Presbyterian Church and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows to consider biblical texts and the theme “Choosing and Living With Leaders.”
Uniting people of faith is an act of peace-making.
Pope Francis, at the closing ceremony of the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi said, “Our religious traditions are diverse. But our differences are not the cause of conflict and provocation, or a cold distance between us…Peace means cooperation, a concrete and active exchange with another, who is a gift and not a problem, a brother or sister with whom to build a better world.”
Our community is fortunate to have many opportunities for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, especially as congregations grapple with how to bring peace and life to a discouraged people. Some ideas:
Participate in your own congregation’s ecumenical, interfaith, and peace-making activities.
Join the Interfaith Scripture Study Group. The next gathering will take place at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows on October 13.
Join the workshop “People of Faith, Now What?” at Trinity Presbyterian on October 27 to find ways to deal with racism in our daily lives, from a Christian perspective.
Attend the Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Gathering on November 22 at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Save the date for the inaugural Interfaith Women’s Conference on March 4th.
Participate in the Interfaith Observance of the National Day of Prayer on May 4th
Watch Associated Ministries calendar for upcoming events all around our community or share an event yourself on the AM calendar (click here to post event).
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said peace “needs a few cornerstones to uphold it even when it is endangered. There can be no peace without mutual respect and acknowledgment…There can be no peace without justice; there can be no peace without fruitful cooperation among all the peoples in the world.”
Let’s join together as friends this year, united in mutual respect and an eagerness to discover the rich faith traditions and perspectives our community holds.