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Dear Friends of New Community Covenant Church,
Pastor Michelle Dodson leading a community prayer vigil.
Last fall, I attended the heart-breaking funeral of a fifteen-year-old young man. He had been playing with his friends, just two blocks from our church’s Sunday morning facility, when gunshots ended his life. At the funeral I watched as young people from our neighborhood gathered around the open casket. Later, at the graveside, those young people and I prayed for their protection and for futures full of hope and possibility.
This wasn’t their first funeral, and it probably won’t be their last. The situation in Chicago is increasingly dire: more murders in 2016 than any year since the early 1990s; more budgets cuts for our public schools; 47% of our young African American men are unemployed or out of school. The needs can feel overwhelming.
Despite all of this, these young people remain hopeful. They have dreams and plans for the future. They are working incredibly hard to overcome the neglect of our city and culture. Because they are hopeful, our hope must translate to strategic action in support of the families and children in our neighborhood so they can flourish the way God intends.
Church members building vegetable gardens at an elementary school.
This year New Community Covenant Church celebrates six years of ministry. God has been good to us! During these years we’ve grown deep in community- both the diverse, reconciled community that gathers for worship on Sundays and the neighborhood community of Bronzeville. We partner with neighborhood churches and organizations to address the needs of those in our community. For example:
Serving our neighbors in these and other ways has been an answer to our prayers and, as a result, we are building deep relationships with individuals and families in our neighborhood. Last year we discerned God calling us to put down even deeper neighborhood roots so that our reach in Bronzeville could be greater and more effective. The needs are great, but we have repeatedly seen God use our small but faithful efforts to address these needs in practical and effective ways. Now it is time to take the next steps.
Leading our church into deeper engagement with our neighborhood’s needs and opportunities will require great leadership. God has provided that leader in Markeyta Boone. Markeyta has been a member of New Community almost since the beginning. In addition to leading the worship team, Markeyta has significant experience in the fields of education and social services. A Chicago native, Markeyta is married to Steve and is currently finishing up her Ed.D. in Higher and Postsecondary Education. She has thirty years of ministry experience, over fifteen years in a variety of teaching roles, and work experience with the State of Illinois. On a personal level, Markeyta has lived in Bronzeville and knows our community well, including the tragedy of losing students to Chicago’s violence.
As our part-time Neighborhood Engagement Director, Markeyta will lead us into collaborative, sustainable, outcome-based ministries of justice and mercy. She will coordinate our partnerships with churches, schools, and social service providers along with equipping the church for greater involvement in mentoring, gardening, trauma prevention, and more. Markeyta will also work with our leaders to develop the necessary infrastructure and strategy to be an increasingly effective ministry partner in Bronzeville.
As a result of Markeyta’s leadership, New Community will exponentially grow in our capacity to effectively love and serve our neighbors. I’m convinced that the young people I prayed with at the graveside last year will be directly and positively impacted by the ministry that results from her leadership. Because the stakes are so high and the potential so great, for the first time we are raising financial support from outside the church to fund Markeyta’s part-time salary. As a young, urban congregation, God has always provided for all of our financial needs. In this case, we believe God will meet this specific need through our networks of family and friends who believe in our mission and want to be a part of God’s good work in Bronzeville.
Would you prayerfully consider giving monthly toward Markeyta’s salary? Before she begins, we need to receive $4,000 in donations and $12,500 in pledges. To reach this goal we are building a team of supporters who will commit to a monthly donation through June 2017, with the option of continuing to give. Those who join Markeyta’s support team will receive regular updates and specific prayer requests from her so that you can see the impact of your generous investment in our Chicago neighborhood. To learn more and let us know how you can participate, please visit this response page.
Thank you for reading this lengthy but important letter. I appreciate your prayerful consideration of this opportunity for shared ministry. May God help you discern if this is a ministry you would like to partner with. I welcome any questions you might have.
David Swanson, Pastor New Community Covenant Church