Over the past few years, I’ve talked with leaders at various churches about community engagement. I have found that there is a strong desire in churches to connect with their surrounding community in order to put faith into practice by serving those around them especially in an age when fewer and fewer Americans are part of their own church. There is less of an understanding of how to get there.
This is the first of a series of posts about the interfaith initiative, Muslim Neighbors. This series focuses on the development of an evaluation model for Muslim Neighbors. The model pulls from my community arts background, but I think a strong argument can be made for its usefulness for community and faith-based initiatives.
When someone asks me what I do, I flounder for a bit and then rest on one of the following answers, depending on who is asking: I teach for an online master’s program in art education. Or, I am a community engagement consultant for churches. Or, I am a community arts educator. My husband has an easier answer: what doesn’t she do? And then lists a litany of projects I’m currently working on. What this question raises for me, however, is my own difficulty separating the different work projects I do, because, in my thinking and approach, they are interconnected, one informing the other.
Welcome back, Artful Connections. The past two years have been busy with consulting work and family. As a full-time mom working from home, time for reflecting and writing is often set to the back burner. I currently have two articles and a handful of blog posts half finished and notes scattered on the back of more grocery lists than I can find. But, with the start of a new school year and a new office set up, I am planning to commit regular time to writing and subsequently posting to my blog.
My work rhythms tend to cycle through periods of engagement with communities or projects and periods of rest, reflection, and writing. This is the latter. To be honest, there will be not so much rest, but certainly more focus on reflection and writing.
I have plans to post on the faith-based community engagement work I have recently completed as well as some thoughts on pedagogy as I navigate homeschool and teaching in higher ed. So, check back soon.
Ruth M. Smith
Community arts educator and researcher. Drinking coffee. Home educating. Making art. Listening intentionally.