Creating a Presence in Your Church
Visible reminders of our partners keep the relationship exciting. The congregation is in partnership. Even though not everyone is an active participant, they are part of the relationship. Try these suggestions to make the relationship visible.
• Create a display of gifts from the overseas partner.
• One church commissioned a communion service set from a local potter and gave it as a gift to their partner.
• Use a bulletin board in a high traffic area to show a map with your partner clearly marked. Display letters, photos, maps, art and craftwork, and post regular updates to keep it lively.
• Take the opportunity of chalice lightings and joys and concerns candles to remember your partner. Find out about holidays they celebrate that are different from ours and remember them at that time.
• Assign a member of the committee to write a short news article for each issue of your newsletter. Include plans, letters, recipes, photos and general news from your partner’s country.
• As the partnership becomes part of the culture of the church, build it in to long range plans, mission and vision statements to enable it to grow as part of your core values. The Partner Church Committee in Bellevue, WA has been involved in a long range planning process. Every committee has written their own goals that have been incorporated into the church goals. This has firmly established the partner program at this church into the organizational life of the church.
• Hold a Sunday service and special RE program once a year to celebrate the partnership (often led by visitors to or from your partner church). On the same Sunday at the same moment, your partner might also hold a special afternoon partner church service and ring the bell (or both can ring bells) half a continent away.
• In one church, the collection plate every third Sunday goes to support the Partner Church needs and projects.
• Hold a social/educational evening each year to celebrate your partnership (including slide shows, folk dancing and singing, music, ethnic meals/desserts, handcraft exhibits). You might want to invite near-by churches that are also partnered when having special functions such as a dinner or fundraiser.
Expanding the Links Between Congregations
Develop many, many links—as many as possible. Here are some suggestions that have worked elsewhere:
- Have the minister write to the minister of your partner. At holidays, have them exchange greetings and messages to be read from the pulpits of both churches. Post them on a bulletin board or print excerpts in your newsletter.
- Have different people on the committee be responsible for letter writing during different months. Describe all important church events—baby namings, flower communions, church fundraisers, annual dinners, even the canvass! Sharing information about how your church operates will help them share information about how their church operates.
- Foster an exchange between RE groups to connect the youth of both churches. One church established a pen pal program between several youth in both churches. They sent all the letters at the same time. When they got responses (which all came back at the same time), they held a pen pal party with a translator and shared the letters. Everyone wrote a response and had a great time.
- The coming of age class in another church connected with the confirmation class. They shared what they were learning and at the end exchanged traditional gifts. Another church connected graduating seniors in a similar program.
- Exchange music between the churches. Your choir director will probably be familiar with music from your partner’s tradition. Ask them to perform some music and record it so you can send it to your partner. A cd that can be played on a computer is probably the easiest way.
- Make a short video and post it and send your partners the link. It could be on your webpage, YouTube or Vimeo.
- Send them your newsletter if language is not a barrier. Also send copies of your photo directory, annual report and other documents about your church that you produce.