By Courtney Ball, Community Building Director
From Spring 2023 Newsletter
Way back in Matthew 25’s early days, an artist friend named Ella Yates offered to paint a mural for us in our first home, the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church. After listening to Clint and I discuss our dreams for the organization, Ella painted “Bridges”, an image with children playfully reshaping the city’s connections by adding new bridges to the landscape.
The idea Ella tried to communicate through “Bridges” is that we could take on a childlike openness as Jesus suggested and find joy in the important work of bridging divides in our community. Divisions caused by geography, wealth inequality, religion, race, politics, and other factors were not permanent. They could be overcome by open-minded, curious people committed to seeing each other as fully human no matter how different we might appear.
Relationships are started and built in all kinds of ways, but often the most reliable way is through listening and conversation. That happens naturally and organically in our lives all the time. However, there’s a lot of data to suggest that as a society we are less relational, more isolated, and more divided than we’ve been for quite some time. On a system-wide level, the work of building bridges is perhaps as important now as it has ever been.
That’s why Matthew 25 decided last year to create a new role in the organization entirely focused on Community Building. Clint invited me to rejoin the Matthew 25 team as the Community Building Director and to look for structural ways that Mattthew 25 could become better at listening, conversation, and the other practical components of relationship building, especially with residents in the neighborhoods we serve.
I remember taking a learning journey several years ago to visit an organization in Shreveport, LA called Community Renewal International. One important lesson they emphasized was that a healthy, safe, thriving community doesn’t just happen on its own. It has always taken people who focused on building, nurturing, and maintaining community. And that’s really what this new position, this emerging department within Matthew 25, is all about. By laying out structured processes and dedicating resources toward the work of listening to, learning from, and organizing our neighbors, we will strengthen the fabric of community in Cedar Rapids.
If listening, conversation, and relationship building are activities you enjoy, I invite you to reach out and let me know. I would like to meet you and possibly invite you to help us in our community building efforts.