These are some current stories about the impact that we, as Christ followers, can have as the we work together. Just a few vignettes of all that is going on. We share them only to encourage and inspire others to get involved in partnering in the work of transforming our community…
If you have a story of transformation, reconciliation or bridge-building that you would like to share with us, please email it to email@example.com
FROM MOST RECENT TO FAR PAST…
– Rev. Jeffrey Brown returned to Rockford September 26 and 27 to offer training and lead neighborhood walks
– God Belongs in my City prayer walked the city core and celebrated at Fairgrounds Housing Development on September 24. 3rd annual event
– The Call… reading the entire Bible aloud publicly over Rockford, took place September 5-17
– By every estimate and evaluation, the All Area, All Congregation Picnic at Camp Winnebago was a rollicking success. Estimates of those in attendance were 400-500 with an estimated 35 congregations represented. It was a beutiful day, and people had a great time. What better way to build unity in the body of Christ! We celebrate the success, and thank all who helped make it possible.
– the steering committee is meeting every week and working hard in anticipation of the 2nd annual all congregation picnic, August 13.
– The June meeting of the Rockford Ministers Fellowship hosted both the new sheriff and the new police chief
– Neighborhood tables are spreading out across the city.
– Clergy conversation groups are breaking down barriers and building trust and friendship
– Downtown continues to flourish- the UW Sports Factory is open, and tournaments are happening! Redevelopment is underway on numerous projects, including the public library. New apartments are in the works, and new retail is on the way. The vision we have for the city is becoming real!
– The most recent gathering of the pastors corner saw 11 pastors there, multiple conversations, new friendships begining, and no one wanting to leave!
– 27 (by one count) gathered on the State Street bridge to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the Reconciliation Declaration. Again, representatives from each clergy association came together to pray and to declare that, as Jesus prayed, we are one. Much work to do. AND much is happening!
The May and June gatherings of the Evangelical Ministers Fellowship and the May meeting of the Rockford Ministers Fellowship were full, energetic, God-led and powerful. Unity is happening! God is at work!
Bridge Ministries board retreat- a time of celebration and rejoicing on all God has done and is doing!
Noel Castellano came to Rockford, to help us understand the principles of Christian Community Develpment. Full house, great message.
Strategic neighborhood ministry and prayer is moving ahead on several fronts!
Pastor’s corner has launched at Katie’s Cup- every Tuesday, from 10am to noon- a chance for pastors to hang out and just get to know one-another. Most recently, a lesson on how to play dominoes from Alfred Johnson!
Every other Monday, a small but growing, and diverse steering committee is meeting to plan this year’s all city, all congregation Church picnic at YMCA Camp Winnebago, August 13th, starting at 2pm
Bob Lupton came to town again, met with a large, very diverse gathering of mostly pastors, to talk about how to be charitable without being toxic.
At the Transform Rockford Unity Pride and Culture gathering to hammer out startegy staements, one came out sounding almost like a Bridge Ministries promo- all about building bridges and coming together. The vision is a growing one! It doesn’t belong to TR, or to BMOR- it belongs to God!
We had a full house! And a house full of God’s Spirit! 13 pastors gathered for a day of prayer, solitude, fellowship, and community on February 25, for our quarterly pastor’s day of prayer. It was amazing- so much diversity, and so much unity. I sure it made Jesus smile! Sure made me smile!
18 pastors and other leaders met from 6-9pm on February 19 for the first pastors prayer and worship time- a great gathering, co-sponsored by The Call and We Are One. What a fine evening- and how awesome to worship with such a diverse group!
Transform Rockford hosted community leaders from Racine, WI recently, and I was invited to attend. It was encouraging to know another city sees value in what we are doing. It was encouraging to hear again all that is happening for good in the city. And it was encouraging to meet a couple of new friends from Racine, and be able to share what God is doing here. Very encouraging!
I serve on both Unity, Pride, and Culture team and the Clergy Unity Team for Transform Rockford. Both are making headway in seeing some actual results in areas that have long needed attention.
MLK celebrations now past. Great weekend, many at the events, strong call to unity, to working together, to building bridges. I was honored to be asked to offer the opening prayer at the MLK pastors luncheon- a wonderful event, great teaching, and great sense of community and love.
The heads of the various clergy associations continue to meet monthly to build friendship and trust and to learn how to work together. Next up, MLK celebrations, Jan 15-18
The Transform Rockford clergy unity team met and on a suggestion by one present, laid hands on and commissioned 2 new TR staff- beautiful moment
Pastor Steve Bowie, interim pastor of Third Presbyterian, on his own pulled together the other clergy serving nearby congregations to begin to build friendships with them.
The January gathering of pastors interested in community wide prayer and outreach strategy was well attended and energetic. And relationships among those gathered continue to strengthen…
December is a winding down month for meetings. Still, we were able to connect for a few key gatheringrs for Transform Rockford and also to meet with most of the staffs of the various branches of the Rock River YMCA
Our November quarterly pastors day of prayer was, as usual, amazing and powerful. It was unusual in that every participant represented a different congregation and denomination. Unity and diversity were in high evidense!
The Rockfore Reach Out Ministry Public Safety Summit, was well attended by church and community leaders, all calling for cooperation, working together, and full dependence on God. It was a page right out of our play book, and I loved it!
A group of 6 local clergy have become chaplains at the Ottawa YMCA, and are excited to see Jesus lifted up there. I was privileged to go see what is happening. It is very exciting.
The chaplains team at the Rock River YMCA continues to grow, and new partners are being found to help carry the good news into our Y endeavors.
Courtside Ministries, offering prayer to any seeking it outside of the courthouse, started with one morning a week, has grown to 3 mornings a week, and has kept track of their engagements with passers by. 10 volunteers logged 400.5 hrs; 2417 individual prayer contacts were made; 167 people made first time commitments to Christ; 43 rededicated their lives to him. These are just some of what has been reported. Amazing! And Wonderful!
Clergy continues to come together to work for community transformation. The clergy unity team of Transform Rockford, the pastors prayer strategy gathering; pastors days of prayer; these and other such gatherings are giving us joy as leaders of the Church of Rockford come together in greater numbers and across the things that have previously divided them to work together for the Kingdom.
The evangelism training that was proposed in the summer was held this fall with a great turnout from numerous congregations and much excitement and energy.
Again this year, a wide swath of Christian belivers walked in the Labor Day parade and then launched the Call, a reading of God’s Word from start to finish, over the city of Rockford.
God Belongs in My City was another march calling the Church to come together and lift up Jesus in the city. Another awesome day!
People from many congregations have accepted the challenge to pray for their neighbors on a regular basis. The theme of neighboring continues with congregations begining to “own” the neighborhoods where they are located. This movement out of the 4 walls of the congregation and into the mission field of the city is growing!
Addressing some of the various problems we face, clergy and others have initiated trainings to help deal with racism, crime, education, and other major issues.
The first All City, All Congregation Church Picnic was held August 8 at the YMCA Camp Winnebago. A good start to what we hope will be an annual tradition!
Ist Covenant Church hosted a men’s steakfry on July 21, and invited others across the city to consider how we can cross barriers, build bridges, and come together as the body of Christ.
The weekly summer prayer gathering at Anderson Gardens continues every Wednesday from 7-8:30. Recently, the numbers have grown as others interested in strategic prayer and community evangelism have joined us
A good number of clergy and others gathered on July 16 to consider a simple plan for evangelism for the city, to couple with our prayer strategy. Other meetings are planned…
It being summer, specific events take a back seat to increased contact, study, relationship building, and prayer. As led, I continue to seek to follow up on the Reconciliation Declaration by prayer walking neighborhoods, calling and dropping in on clergy/congregations, pursuing new and reviving long-standing relationships.
The pastor’s prayer strategy monthly gatherings continue. At our last one on July 1, we agreed to step up the prayer by joining in with the ongoing weekly prayer at Anderson Gardens. In addition to what we ususally pray for, we will add an emphasis on evangelism. We are pursuing the prayer, care, share strategy that we have long endorsed and encouraged.
One strategy for racial understanding and reconciliation that we are pursuing this summer is to attend entertainment and historical venues that are outside of our usual venues. This is not new for us- but we are encouraging others to do the same. So we went to the Junteenth Celebration at Sinnissippi Park, and the June version of Domingos en el Parque at Levings Lake.
The Reconciliation Declaration on May 30 was a very significant step towards racial healing and building unity in the body of Christ. A powerful morning of repentence, prayer, joy, declaration, celebration, and a courageous new launch of the Church to cooperative ministry.
In a return to earlier practices, I have found myself on weekly junkets into the community, dropping in on pastors and community leaders, prayer walking and driving, getting a feel for the city, and re-engaging with its needs. I would say this has been Spirit-led, and very exciting…
Several clergy, representing various backgrounds and denominations, have been crafting a declaration of reconcilliation for a reconcilliation event to be held May 30th on the State Street bridge. Race has for too long been a divide between us, and we endeavor with God’s help to change that. Stay tuned for more updates on this…
May 14 found a nice cross section of the Church and community gathered to consider the food needs of our community in a gathering sponsored by Bread for the World, that we helped organize and promote.
Good Friday found multiple worship services, several involving multiple pastors and congregations- a coming together of the body of Christ to celebrate his victory! Wonderful day!
We have re-engaged with the monthly conference call of the Mission America Coalition. Each month, we talk and pray together on the call, sharing best practices and what God is doing among us. It is always encouraging to hear from others with a similar call. Let me know if you would like to get in on a call. Open to all…
April 1 found the same group of pastors that had gathered March 4, this time to pray together and begin to consider how God might use each of us, and us together, to own the city and serve it in Jesus name.
You should know that there is a team of intercessors, every Tuesday morning, even on the coldests days, out in front of the Public Safety Building, offering prayer to any who wish it. Every week there are many takers. Almost every week someone comes to faith in Jesus. Marriages have been restored. People have been given hope. Amazing things are happening. Thanks to Myra Pollard and her team.
We joined our city-reaching colleagues on the monthly Mission America Coalition conference call on March 19. These are all folks who serve similar ministries to Bridge Ministries, sharing best practices and prayer. Glad to be back on the call, and able to share with them some of what is going on in Rockford, including lifting up Jesus in the YMCA, Courtside Ministries to those involved with the justice system, and Transform Rockford.
March 14, in the evening, a full house at Maddox Theatre at Rockford University, was treated to an evening of music and message from a group of young people from Palestine. Both Israeli and Palestinian, these artists are traveling and performing to advocate for peace and for the capacity to come together for the common good. It was powerful. Thanks to Bob Schlehuber and all who worked with him to bring us this event.
On March 12, clergy from the different minsters fellowships and clergy associations gathered for a conversation on what it will take for Christians to become one. This has been a long anticipated conversation! It was a wonderful gathering, complete with actual on the spot reconciliation, and some first steps towards understanding. Thank you JESUS!
On March 3, I was in a small meeting of community leaders, where the mayor shared plans for a new initiative to bring the community together, by working in and with neighborhoods. I shared with them all that the very next morning, I and Janet Droy would be sharing a vision with 20+ pastors for churches to do that very thing in the neighborhoods where their congregations worship. Both that meeting (March 3) and the one the next day (March 4) were encouraging and exciting, as we are seeing ever more clearly God’s hand in bringing his people together to transform our community.
Bob Goff came to town on February 21, courtesy of the Rockford First Men’s Conference. If you don’t know who that is, you need to read Love Does. It was an amazing one day conference for the hundreds of men who attended. The point of Bob’s book and presentation is that we are called to put our love into action. He models it well!
On February 16, we gathered again the young leaders group, this time at the YMCA Harding Center. A smaller, but no less enthusiastic gathering. These people have in common a love for Jesus, a love for the city, a passion for the unity of the body of Christ, and their young (mostly 20’s) age. An awesome group with energy and vision for the city.
I got to speak to the retired men of Our Saviors Lutheran on February 16 on the history, the work, and the vision of Bridge Ministries. Very well received! Great questions on lots of topics. And I met Pastor Tony for the first time!
Patt Winn, director of Catholic Charities for the Rockford Diocese, spoke on February 11 to the gatherec pastors of the Evangelical Ministers Fellowship. He was very well received.
February 10 found a number of pastors and church leaders gathered to learm more about Kid’s Hope USA, an approved mentoring program that matches cogregations to elementary schools, and individual volunteer adults with individual students. Three congregations are currently involved. Officials from District 205 are very excited, and hopeful of more congregations getting involved.
February 3, 10, and 17 found concerned clergy and others watching and discussing a video series called, “Race, the Power of an Illusion” Very powerful and helpful material as we, as a community, seek to address the ongoing issue of race in our community
January 29, the most recent gathering of the Transform Rockford Clergy Unity Team. The importance of this team grows, as TR continues in the development of its strategy, and as the community is pushed to deal with hard issues like the rift between the police union and the police chief, and the decision of what to do about the Fairgrouns Valley Housing Development. This is all bigger than any of us to handle alone. We need each other- and God!
January 28, 7 pastors and ministers gathered for Bridge Ministries quarterly day of prayer at Deer Ridge Ministries, in Freeport, IL. As usual, an amazing day! Solitude early, lunch and group prayer in the afternoon.
The second gathering of My Brothers Keeper was today (Jan 22). Very encouraging and engaging dialogue on helping young men of color achieve the good life they were intended for. It is a national initiative, with a good number of Chrisitans of various backgrounds involved at all levels.
What a week! Last night(Jan 21), for the first time in 30+ years, Christians from a wide assortment of denominations and traditions gathered at St. Peter’s Cathedral for a service of worship and prayers for Christian unity. It was wonderful! The spirit was electric. There was so much love! It seemed everyone stayed for fellowship. Thank you Lord!
MlK celebrations have been amazing- well attended, diverse, powerful. Pastors luncheon at St. Anskars Jan 16; worship celebration at St. Lukes Jan 18; community celebration at Emmanuel Lutheran, Jan 19. Wow. God is truly pulling his people together. Still a long way to go… but we rejoice for the growing love!
Oh! Wow! The second gathering of these young, passionate, Christian leaders was even better than the first. We met in our home, and while peope were perhaps a bit tentative at first, two hours later it was as though they were long-time and best of friends. These are men and women from 9-10 different churches who are passionate for Jesus, passionate for the city of Rockford, passionate for unity in the body of Christ, and eager to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. We meet again in a month. I can’t wait!
75 or so men gathered together from churches across the city for the annual men’s unity prayer breakfast at Rock Church.
The We are One prayer group continues to pray in congregations across the community and is endeavoring to engage congregations in strategic outreach and prayer to their neighborhoods, and pastors to prayer for key community leaders
Courtside Ministries, representing a number of congregations, has been outside of the Winnebago County Courthouse every Tuesday morning, to offer prayer to any going into the courthouse, with great effect and impact.
Gary and Mark Williams, one of the YMCA volunteer chaplains, made a trip to Ottawa, IL to meet with staff from that Y, and the Y in Streator, IL, about steps towards resurrecting the spiritual/Christian side of the YMCA. A great meeting!
We are partnering with “Q place” to create places locally where people with serious questions about life and faith can gather to address those questions in a safe and supportive environment.
We have helped to gather local clergy to have dialogue on the topic of race in our community.
We attended a Thanksgiving celebration at one of the Rockford Housing Authority’s high rises.
We gathered for the first time a number of the young leaders that we have been meeting with individually. It was a wonerful time, with most not knowing each other. A second gathering is scheduled for January 12, at 4:30pm
We continue to gather with the Transform Rockford Clergy Unity Team, most recently December 4th. A well attended and helpful meeting.
Gary has been a part of the School of Medicine community relations sub-committee, to enhance relations between the School and the community at large.
Gary has also had a full schedule of personal meetings with key church and community leaders, building relationships, building trust, sharing ideas, offering encouragement.
Last week, two back to back meetings I had (one a discussion group and one a prayer group) represented such a diversity of backgrounds, theology, and practice that I was blown away. Very different people, all loving and serving the same Jesus. I think he smiled. I sure did…
In all of the conversations around Transform Rockford concerning Christians and people of other faiths working together for the common good, an important step has not yet been dealt with- getting Christians to find their common ground as followers of Jesus. That has been our focus in BMOR since we began, and we are now planning to make a major move in the very good climate, to address that.
Quite serendipidously, I am finding myself engaging with a host of young, energized, men and women of faith, wanting to be more engaged in our community. They are seeking greater involvement. They, for the most part don’t know each other. We are endeavoring to bring them together soon. All are excited for that, as am I! What God might do with such a crew!
We were invited to be a part of the very last session of vision crafting for Transform Rockford. Those on the team for this had clearly become friends in the many long hours and countless days of hard work.
On October 13th, Transform Rockford will celebrate all that hard work with a public celebration and revelation of the vision statement. This will happen at 5:30pm at the new Auburn High School fieldhouse. Open to the public.
On October 8th,the Evangelical Ministers Fellowship heard from Jeff and John from Q Place, with an invitation to learn more and put into practice this most effective means of showing love and answering life questions.
A pastor’s day of prayer was held September 30, at Deer Ridge Retreat, in Freeport, IL. Another awesome day- solitude and personal prayer, great lunch and fellowship, community prayer. Next one coming up soon- no cost to attend.
“The Call” has just completed the third reading of the entire Bible, by reading it aloud over a two week period at Beatty Park. Low key, and unassuming, the reading has had profound impact on individuals, and- less obviously, but as importantly- the city.
A dozen volunteer chaplains for the YMCA have been found and commissioned for the ministry of prayer and presence there, and any programatic efforts that might grow from such prayer and presence.
Also in the Y, 16 staff took part in a 2 day training called Lead Like Jesus. It was taught by Dick Kunnert, is based on Jesus model of servant leadership, and had profound impact on those of us who took it. Other Y’s have begun to contact us to see how we put it into practice.
Transform Rockford has declare their vision for the city. Clergy and faith leaders are meeting to consider how we can contribute to that vision.
The most recent Big Event for the movement was the Transform Rockford clergy summit, Friday, January 24th at the YMCA Log Lodge. That lovable, rustic yet stately hall, with so much history played host to probably the largest and most diverse gathering of local clergy and leaders of faith communities in recent history. It was awesome. It was historic. The point was to gather these faith leaders together and present the Transform Rockford vision to them, and invite their questions and involvement. We at Bridge certainly see TR as an answer to long held, and long prayed prayers. We are excited to partner with them and to have their help. This meeting, while significant, is only a step in the right direction. Your prayers are sought for ongoing collaboration and unity!
Eight pastors gathered again in January for a day of prayer together, at Deer Ridge, a pastor’s retreat facility in Freeport, IL. We approach these days with heightened expectations- and once again, we were not disappointed. They, along with the clergy summit above, and the ongoing prayer efforts, are part of what is becoming a measuable shift towards cooperation and unity in the community of the body of Christ- his Church.
In the spring of 2013, people gathered in the old train station at 6th Avenue and 7th Street to pray for the 7th Street neighborhood. What has emerged is a group that pretty much every week goes to a congregation somewhere in the city to pray for that pastor and congregation, by invitation only. A very powereful time! And it is snowballing, as pastors, and sometimes members, join the group the next week to pray for the next pastor and church. Small churches, large churches, black, white, asian, hispanic- any church that wants prayer. The group calls itself, We Are One. Awesome…
Transform Rockford has been taking Rockford by a storm! Two community meetings have been packed out as leaders present the hard facts of the way we are as a city, and what it will take to become one of the best cities in the nation. As a ministry committed to community transformation, we see this movement as a direct answer to prayer, and one we want very much to be a part of- and we are! Director Mike Schablaske has become a friend, we have had him to our BMOR board meeting, he has prayed with pastors on a prayer walk on the west side- this is hope giving! AND of course, we don’t forget that “unless the Lord builds the house, those that labor, labor in vain.”
In March, 2013, thirty clergy, representing all three of the major clergy fellowships, gathered for lunch and then to hear the mayoral candidates make their pitches for votes.
Also in March, more than a dozen pastors attended the YMCA community dinner as guests of the Y. It is our hope to begin to build strong partnerships with congregations to better impact the community for Christ.
In January, 2013, we were part of a clergy luncheon to discuss ways to halt the spread of violence in our community. It was part of the Martin Luther King celebration. 50 pastors came and heard from and asked questions or our mayor and police chief. It was a very diverse group of clergy, and there was a strong sentiment to continue meeting quarterly.
Lifting up Christ in the YMCA continues to be a focus, and is taking some major steps forward. Staff, members, and community members have been asked, and have agreed to form an advisory team to advance this purpose.
More and new people have started to show up at some of our regular sites for prayer (city hall, school board) and new prayer teams are forming on other sites.
We have stepped up our efforts to contact clergy in the area. It is our desire to encourage them, support them, and help them catch a vision for cooperative ministry in the community
On September 25th, we hosted another Pastor’s Day of Prayer at Deer Ridge. Another fine turnout, and a truly amazing day! Our morning was given to solitude and listening, and our afternoon to community prayer and intercession. As quiet and healing as the morning was, the afternoon was dynamic, energized, powerful, aflame. Walls came down and bridges were built.
The missional leaders group continues to meet monthly at Katie’s Cup, and we are taking turns reviewing great books on leadership or mission. It is an inspiring time to learn and network!
Bridge is currently meeting with the board of Rockford Renewal Ministries to pray and strategize how our two organizations might strategically partner or merge as we move into the future.
Bridge is working with the Rock River Valley branches of the YMCA to expand its role in spiritual development there. We are excited about the opportunities to serve the member of the Y in this capacity
On November 8, the Rockford Chamber of Commerce Advantage Club Originals hosted “Good Morning, Rockford!” at the Hilton Garden Inn with the theme, “Build a Bridge of Hope!” to raise awareness for Bridge Ministries and donations for local non-profits. Bridge is excited to partner with Chamber businesses to bring hope to our community.
Bridge is launching a great new tool to allow all of us to partner together and help churches dramatically increase their impact in the community by mobilizing more people to loving acts of service. We are partnering with Meet the Need, which provides a state of art platform via our website – at no cost to churches or ministries – to make needs know, respond to needs that are posted, and engage in missional opportunities throughout the city. We are so excited!