Journey of Hope intends for the Bridges Project to equip congregations with the proper tools to engage the diversity of their surrounding communities. We have noticed that without these tools, a lack of community engagement turns to fear, then insularity, irrelevance, and even closure. However, congregations who have done the hard work of cultivating relationships across lines of difference demonstrate a resilient joy. The Bridges Project takes participating churches through a 12-month process that makes this kind of joy likely. We recognize that building community delight takes time, and we are inspired by the image of slow revelation in Luke 24’s story of Jesus’ walk to Emmaus. With this image in mind, the yearlong process will take on three phases, characterized by (1) Noticing, (2) Mission, and (3) Practice.
Participants will engage in a 12-month cohort experience punctuated by three, onsite events. Through a highly experiential program rooted in relationship, playfulness, storytelling, and self-reflection, participating congregations will emerge with:
- an ability to identify their own social location
- the skills to practice deep empathy, even amidst difference
- a deeper theological understanding of the role of diversity in the Imago Dei
- a clarified sense of their Christian values and mission
- a renewed engagement in meaningful spiritual practices
- more delight in both God and others
All three phases will include the following:
- a multiday gathering experience
- a rhythm of storytelling, story listening, and deep reflection
- ongoing homework assignments supported by focused coaching
Each year long cycle will accept up to 25 congregations within the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. Each team will be made of 4-7 laity and clergy. These teams will be responsible for developing and implementing a final project in their context. Again, we are thrilled that the Lilly Endowment has invested so significantly in our mission, and we look forward to our first yearlong cohort to begin in early summer of 2022!