The Communities of Shalom national initiative began as a response to the conditions that impelled, and the aftermath of the Los Angeles rioting in 1992. An original Community of Shalom was created in Los Angeles.
“That in solidarity and consultation with the indigenous persons and local churches in in a selected neighborhood, The United Methodist Church, commits itself to the creation in Los Angeles of a Shalom Zone… with the hope that the Shalom Zone concept becomes a prototype for proactive ministry in other places.”Creating mandate, adopted by General Conference of the United Methodist Church, May 6, 1992
The model has been replicated throughout the United States and around the world. The Shalom movement is on the loose and training for Communities of Shalom has taken place in more than forty annual conferences, as well as Central Conferences and autonomous church locations in Southern and West Africa.
Communities of Shalom are committed to:
- Renewing the spirit of God in communities and congregations
- Developing the prosperity and economies of communities
- Strengthening relationships among neighbors
- Improving community health care and coordination of services
“I’m heartened by the work I see being done in the Communities of Shalom Initiative, where individual churches and churches in union are looking to transform just four city blocks in some instance…”— Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Address to General Conference” (1996) from the transcript published in The Daily Christian Advocate (April 24, 1996)
Past Westminster Programs
- The Boys and Girls Club of Westminster
- Higher Learning, Inc.
- Health & wellness fairs
- Smoking cessation classes
- Yoga & dance classes
- Community block parties
- McDaniel College partnership programs
“Westminster Community Center celebrates 10 years, looks toward future,” Carroll County Times (October, 2016)
“Boys and Girls Club of Westminster named nonprofit Philanthropist of the Year,” Carroll County Times (October, 2017)
“‘Everybody has gifts’: Carroll County humanitarian award winner helps several nonprofits,” Baltimore Sun (December, 2019)
Communities of Shalom
Rooted in the prophetic tradition and a practical theological interpretation of Jeremiah 29:1-12, the Shalom Initiative promotes four spiritual values:
1. Spiritual Growth
As members of congregations and communities become effective in linking faith and action, the Spirit of God is revealed in their midst. Spiritually committed and motivated by faith, Shalom teams are able to “seek the welfare of the community” (Jer. 29:7) and work together for peace and wholeness, growing into God’s shalom.
2. Multicultural Harmony
Shalom does not succeed when one’s own cultural group or faith tradition sets out independently to offer community services. Rather, shalom teams succeed when representatives from many cultures and families of faith, as well as community residents, organizations, institutions and businesses, and including those who could be considered Babylonian oppressors (Jer. 29:1) come together to envision and build a better future for the community.
3. Economic Prosperity
Recognizing that collective economic stability is essential for community wholeness, shalom teams seek to empower people to “build homes and live in them” (Jer. 29:5). Shalom communities intentionally promote affordable housing, small business development and shared economic growth. As individuals are supported in finding and keeping jobs, providing for their families, accessing education, economic prosperity can be shared.
4. Health, Healing and Wholeness
Communities of Shalom promote positive mental health, improve community healthcare, facilitate the healing of persons, and seek wholeness for the community and the environment. Part of what it means to seek shalom is to “plant gardens and eat what they produce.” (Jer. 29:5) Saving and sustaining the environment, no less than working for social-economic well-being, is valued and promotes in the shalom model of community development. Thus, some teams create health clinics, other healing ministries; some coordinate social services, while others advocate for justice and systemic change. Some plant community gardens and feed the hungry, while others work ecologically for a ‘green’ community. All work for wholeness in oneself, the community and the whole creation. For in seeking the shalom of the city of God, “…you will find your shalom.” (Jer. 29:7)
When these four values are translated into principles and strategies, the real work of shalom begins.
Asset-Based Community Development – As it works toward its goals, Shalom stresses asset-based community development. Historically, economic development has stimulated improvements throughout communities. However, when economic profits are invested far away from the workers who generate it (as happens when stockholders of corporate farms or main street franchises, for example, live in distant suburbs), its secondary benefits disappear. With asset-based community development, existing local resources are identified, nurtured, and mobilized to envision and build Shalom. The Shalom Community acquires new resources as well. The quality of the whole community’s life improves doubly, as new physical assets appear, and as individuals’ gifts and abilities are discovered and affirmed.
Collaboration – Shalom does not succeed when one congregation sets out independently. Rather, Shalom congregations work in collaboration with other families of faith, as well as with community residents, organizations, institutions and businesses. Shalom invites all community members to engage in service to one another; this collaboration yields multitudes of benefits, both within and outside of the Shalom Initiative.
Faith in Action – “What good it is, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat our fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” James 2:14-17 (NRSV) Jesus’ ministry was a seamless integration. He met people where they were and brought them an awareness of Salvation not only through words, but through his healing power of love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Shalom practices faith in action: the acting out of our faith, and in so doing, reaching and drawing persons into God’s shalom.
Systemic Change – Over the course of several decades residents of many communities have become accustomed to service institutions taking care of their problems. At the same time, some policies an systems actually block people from creating right relationships and securing basic needs. By reorienting people to their scriptural roots and call to outreach ministry, the Shalom Initiative instills a new, active, responsible, hopeful mindset among its participants. It offers guidance in the practical matters of advocacy, as well as spiritual perspectives on issues of justice, freedom, and peace. As its Shalom Communities mature they may resist the temptation to institutionalize, join the social service “industry,” and surrender their call to generate systemic change. Over time, Shalom Communities can create the momentum and critical mass that challenge injustice in structures, policies, and systems.
Nurture Spiritual Growth – Shalom Communities seek to reveal the Spirit of God at work within individuals in congregations and communities. As its members become increasingly effective in linking faith with action, a Shalom site evolves into a strategic base for community ministry.
Promote Economic Development – Shalom Communities intentionally promote economic development. The local economies of many communities that seek Shalom are spiraling downward. Recognizing that collective economic stability forms a fundamental axis for community wholeness, Shalom Communities create homes, businesses, jobs and job training so that basic economic needs of more residents are met.
Strengthen Multi-Cultural Relationships – Shalom Communities create economically diverse, multi-cultural Shalom Teams, and build effective relationships within those teams. Its participants move through a process of examining the twin conditions of racial/ethnic discord and economic disadvantage, which contribute to poverty, sickness, and spiritual deprivation. Over time, it has become clear that deep and honest understandings of these conditions form the basis of sound, effective Shalom activity.
Empower Healing and Wholeness – Just as some people lose faith when they have no jobs or homes, others lose faith when they are sick or hurt and cannot get help. Shalom Communities improve community health care by creating clinics or by coordinating existing social services. Shalom Communities also help churches and individuals to understand the physical effects of broken spirits and the emotional, social and spiritual manifestations that so often result. Shalom Communities also work to heal the environment and bring ecological wholeness.