Making a Difference in Our Community
By: Rev. Dr. Michael Ross, Senior Pastor at St. Paul Baptist Church in Boise, ID
How can religious leaders of different faiths and their congregants come together to make a difference in their community?
Based on Matthew 5:13-16, the church is the “Salt” of the earth and the “Light” of the world. This means we are to impact and influence the communities in which we exist. One of the things I have discovered is needy people are not interested in our faith until their needs are being met. Our calling, although not totally social, is to make an “impact” where we are.
The formulation of the Multi-faith Action Project (MAP) through the Myrtle Collaboration brought together church leaders and members of four different faiths, including Presbyterians, Lutherans, Mormons, and Baptists. We were all unified in our purpose, “To help meet the needs of people in our community.”
These were leaders and people who would probably never have gotten together and worked toward a mutual goal had it not been for this project. As a result, the St. Paul Family Life Center has been assisted with its goals to meet the needs of various populations in our community including youth and young adults, and inmates returning to their various communities.
In addition, as a result of the formulation of MAP, 1,080 people have been fed a meal through our combined efforts to Feed the Hungry. Also, leaders and members of various faiths have gotten together for a Good Friday program and a choir concert. This has greatly enriched each group’s understanding and appreciation for other faiths. In addition, several members of the church I pastor have visited some of the individuals of other faiths in their homes, broken bread together, and have created ongoing friendships. This is incredible!
Our congregation continues to engage in activities with the MAP group. In fact, in December 2023, congregants of three of the four faith groups are coming together to conduct a Christmas musical entitled, “Oh Holy Night.” There are nearly fifty participants in the choir. We look forward to creating rich opportunities for the leaders and congregants to work together for a common cause.
As a church leader, my participation in the MAP has truly been a blessing. I have gotten to meet church leaders of others faiths, worked together with the leaders and their congregants, and have made a difference that alone, I and my congregation could never have achieved.
The church is called to be a witness in the world, starting in our own communities. It is called to be an example of what can and should happen. Through the MAP, lives have been changed, friendships have been developed, and needy people in our communities have and are having their needs met. Resources have increased exponentially. I am proud to be a part of a group such as the MAP.
It is my belief that groups of this nature should be formed to show the world what we can accomplish together, and to reflect to the world that discord can be erased through people getting together for a common cause.
I also grew professionally and spiritually by attending the Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. It was a pleasure to see such a diverse group of people attending. The theme of the event, “Called Together in an Age of Discord” was right on target. Meeting the other Myrtle Collaboration group members was a special treat.
The conference deepened my understanding of the need for the church to be the church. It revealed to me that if there is going to be a change in all the discord that is occurring, the church has to step up and do what God is calling it to do. Like the MAP, it should “witness,” starting in our own families, workplaces, communities, states, country, and even the world.