What is Valley Interfaith Project?
In May of 2016, The Fountains’ Church Council voted to formally become a member of Valley Interfaith Project (VIP). VIP is a broad-based non-profit organization with a 16-year history in working to address community issues like homelessness, education, youth issues, healthcare, prison reform, and the environment. For a number of years, Pastor David has been involved with other VIP clergy leadership in a variety of efforts, most recently being an advocate to utilities to accommodate customers who are beneath the poverty line with a special reduced rate.
The Fountains joins two of the largest and most influential United Methodist churches in the valley – Dayspring and Paradise Valley – and forty other interfaith organizations as partners in moving from doing “charity” to doing justice – in other words, actively working to change the system, rather than just cleaning up the wreckage the system leaves behind.
What does Valley Interfaith DO?
Theologian Walter Brueggemann says, “I think church people are terribly naïve when it comes to systemic matters.” We do a fairly good job at being generous and extending charity to poor people – all within a system that keeps chewing up and spitting out victims.
VIP helps us be intentional about asking the bigger, tougher questions: WHY are people hungry, homeless, and struggling? Could it be the system that we tacitly endorse by not questioning the values of our politicians and our community? We need to ask the questions that might make some people uncomfortable, but that further our call to work with people of all faiths to care for the widow, the stranger, and the orphan – and not just with charity.
One of the ways VIP helps us to start asking those bigger, tougher questions are through “House Meetings.” These are small-group listening sessions intended to identify stories and issues that participants are concerned about.
House Meetings with neighbors also happen to be a “best practice” of new church starts. They help a church find out what makes a neighborhood tick so they can get engaged in making a difference. If you wonder how the church can be seen as relevant in the community, it makes sense that we need to understand what is relevant to our community.
House Meetings are not complaining or offering opinions or dictating solutions. They’re about sharing stories and really listening to one another – and many of us need to learn the art of listening! As Simon Sinek has said, “There’s a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.” As with a spouse or partner, actually listening to one another can both build and strengthen deeper relationships — within the congregation and in the larger community.
VIP at The Fountains
If you find yourself frustrated with the way the world is and at a loss as to how you can make a difference, then you’ll find VIP is a valuable partner in helping us work together for change.
We already have a VIP core team that’s been planning and training over the summer. We want to be intentional about empowering one another to take action, so VIP’s lead organizer, Joe Rubio, will be at The Fountains once again this Saturday, October 15th at 2pm to continue training Fountains folk in the art of facilitating House Meetings. Then on Sunday, October 16th, we’ll get to experience what a House Meeting is like in both services.
One thing to keep in mind: becoming a member of VIP is committing to playing the long game. Committing to work as a member of VIP is a commitment to changing a system that doesn’t like change. VIP’s current focus includes Education funding reform, Prison Reform, and Immigration reform – any one of which means years of organizing, setbacks, and grassroots work. It’s Jesus work, it’s “Kingdom” work – and work that is worth it in the long run!
A Note on Funding:
Since VIP is strictly non-partisan, it accepts no political contributions or government grants and depends on dues from its member organizations (recommended at 1% of an institution’s operating budget, and active leadership participation in the organization). The Fountains’ dues for our inaugural year is an introductory $2,000, $1,000 of which was generously provided by a committed donor. Members of the Church Council have already contributed toward the second thousand. If you’d like to help us get off to a good start, you can make your check out to The Fountains and note it as being for VIP.