The Communities of Shalom began as a national movement of the United Methodist Church in 1992 in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots. The riots occurred just as the United Methodist Church began its quadrennial General Conference, prompting the delegates to lay aside church business for a day of prayer and fasting focusing on what the church might do to heal the deep divisions in our country.
The Communities of Shalom movement was the fruit of their concern, starting in Los Angeles, but gradually spreading to the rest of the country and around the world. The strategies taught by Shalom movement leaders are:
1) Mission evangelism – We listen to the members of the community to learn what they believe the neighborhood needs instead of just deciding what we think should be done. Neighborhood members are recruited to serve on our board, and we listen carefully to our clients as we serve them. Relationship is as important as service.
2) Asset-based planning – We focus on what we do have and can develop rather than being constrained by what we lack. We have 28,000 square feet of space that was underutilized in 2001, located in an area where need is great. We are now using every inch of this building for service to the community. Asbury continues to meet and to pay rent to use the building.
3) Systemic change – We focus on systemic change. Some of our programs are designed just to help with immediate needs, but we strive constantly to go beyond immediate needs to change the system and to make lasting changes for the better. We believe that education is often the key to lasting changes, so among the programs we support are a number of programs focusing on education.
4) Collaboration – Finally, we know that we cannot and do not need to do everything ourselves, so we reach out to collaborate with other individuals, groups and institutions. We have been very successful in attracting the support of others, including our Fellowship ministries which use the building, but are administered and funded by another board or person.