One time I planted some thyme in my garden. I didn’t really think much of it, but I had an extra space so I just stuck it there. Long after all the tomatoes and zucchini had become unruly and spent, that thyme plant looked great. So I left it there. For years that plant survived and was a very useful herb in our kitchen.
The Downtown Church Connection had its beginnings like my humble thyme plant. I never envisioned what it would really become.
A few years ago I started meeting with a couple of other leaders who were investing in our downtown El Paso community. We would meet for lunch once a month, get to know each other better, and discuss what we were doing in the community. After a while, we invited a few others who we knew would be interested in what we were discussing. From there, it just kept growing.
This small beginning has now blossomed into a network of more than 60 churches and organizations, representing over 160 individuals who participate in various capacities. Our main connection is still a monthly meeting. However, now we regularly have 30 to 40 people each month who meet to discuss what we are doing, how we can avoid duplicating efforts, and how we can work together for the good of the community.
Working better together
The purpose of the group is to be a community where people share what they are doing, keep up to date with community issues, support each other, and partner when necessary. We rarely take an initiative as an entire group. Rather, when a need or opportunity arises, those from the group who are interested partner together and work on that issue.
The group also helps us avoid duplicating efforts within the community. We can work together on the same issue rather than all working on the same things in our own vacuum. If it makes sense each group will funnel resources and volunteers to the church or group that is already meeting a need.
What does it look like?
Our longest-standing group partnership is a Spring Festival. One church used to hold an annual Fall Festival for the neighborhood. Other groups were very interested in the same thing. A small group started doing this together and moved it to the spring. Over the years, the festival became a joint project between a dozen or so churches and organizations.
In a very recent example, a number of churches started hosting refugees arriving from Central America. We became aware of the effort that Annunciation House was spearheading to temporarily house desperate families who were awaiting immigration court hearings. Annunciation House didn’t have the capacity to house everyone, so three churches from the Downtown Connection started hosting refugees in their church buildings. Many other churches collected donations and supplied volunteers and transportation. This proved to be truly transformational for many congregations as they interacted directly with families in peril and heard their firsthand stories.
Each month the group meets in a different member location. The meeting includes:
- Announcements sent by email beforehand and distributed at meeting
- Time of prayer
- Presentation of the history and programs from host site
- Discussion of relevant community issues
- Optional tour of host site
Are you interested in finding out more information about the Downtown Community Connection or joining us for our next meeting? Contact Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.