By Wes Brown, Director of m+r Faith Communities.
The year 2020 winds down with some questions answered about life in the pandemic, yet much remains unknown on the far horizon. In this digital age many of us have discovered new ways to move our lives forward. Stores, classrooms, offices, gathering places, and resources have gone virtual, continuing to be accessible online—but not for everyone.
The best institutions form us to be resourceful and collaborative, particularly in unusual circumstances. My vocation working to strengthen faithfulness and develop spiritual leadership has taught that unusual times offer extraordinary opportunities. Traditionally, faith communities tend to think more about the past than the future. The pandemic has pushed us into new practices such as online giving, reordering priorities about physical facilities, and innovative ways of witness and service.
This summer when it became clear that schools would be closed into the fall or beyond, and that on-line education would be the new normal, the Durham Public Schools Foundation (DPSF) launched the Accelerating Digital Equity fundraising campaign. To achieve the $1.5 million goal, many individuals and institutions would need to be informed and engaged – including faith communities.
Our moss+ross team brought fundraising expertise, relationships, a high trust level with local nonprofits, and creative ideas for recruiting campaign “accelerators” who could engage their communities. Digital equity is about learning and opportunity. If children and families don’t own a laptop, or have internet service, or understand how to work, teach and/or learn remotely, they cannot participate in the digital adaptations to the pandemic.
The DPSF campaign “accelerators” brought this message of increasing access, understanding, competence, and confidence for learning in the digital age to their faith leaders. Faith communities joined the effort through Durham Congregations in Action, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and personal outreach of countless DPSF-related individuals who made sure that the outreach committees, spiritual leaders, service and learning groups, and others in their own church, synagogue, or mosque knew what Accelerating Digital Equity means and how they could become involved. Among the many contributions thus far are more than $70,000 in generous financial commitments, prayerful anticipation, volunteers for teaching, facilities for safe learning spaces, and outreach for sharing the story among the faith communities.
As the DPSF project anticipates the full access and participation in digital learning for 30,000 children across Durham, so may communities of worship collaborate and celebrate with thanksgiving the joyful discovery of the new. While 2020 has kept us away from friends, it has also introduced us to new ones. We give heartfelt thanks for essential workers—those who continue to provide healthcare, groceries, public safety, education, resources, and opportunities. May your upcoming holidays be rich with gratitude.