Calling all Great Neighbors: $10,000 Great Neighbor Challenge

“What is your name – who are you – and can you find a way to hear the sound of the genuine in yourself?”  Howard Thurman   For the past year, I have been working with various marketing professionals to help us define more clearly the work of Embrace Richmond. The hard work of finding simple ways to describe the complex process of asset-based Christian community development is finally complete. In Howard Thurman’s infamous commencement speech at Spellman College in 1980, he encourage the new graduates to discover their own unique calling which he referred to as “the sound of the genuine.” As our board and staff have wrestled with things like taglines and mission statements, I originally thought of this exercise as secular and a necessary part of being a non-profit. I believed that outside experts could tell us who we are. I was wrong. What I discovered is that this has been a deeply spiritual journey that required me to define the sound of the genuine for Embrace Richmond which in turn required me to do the same for myself as the founder and Executive Director. As helpful as the marketing experts were in this process, the resource that was most helpful to me was Jonah Sachs’ book, “Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future” which was suggested by my coach Jonathan Reitz. In “Winning the Story Wars,” Sachs argues that those who tell a more resonate truth in the face of a commonly accepted lie will shape the future. He also believes that the stories we...
Embrace Turns 10!

Embrace Turns 10!

  On March 30th, 2015 Embrace Richmond officially turned 10 years old. Our Board Chair, Don Reich, gave us an early birthday gift – the funds to invest in a branding campaign. It took us nearly eight months, but we are thrilled with the outcome.  I thought sharing this gift would be a great way of sharing where we have been over the past ten years and where we are going in the future. Embrace Richmond has an impressive track record. Over the past ten years, Embrace successfully helped launch more than 40 resident-led neighborhood strengthening projects from food scarcity, to family support, to youth development projects. We have also birthed four different community organizations or associations including what is now the CARITAS Furniture Bank, Hillside Court Partnership, The Life Together Collaborative, and the Peace and Justice Initiative.  We have also played a key role in strengthening the Brookland Park Area Association. In the spring of 2014, we launched the Great Neighbor Academy and began coaching and training neighborhood and congregational leaders across metro Richmond.  We have established coaching and training relationships with more than a dozen faith communities. As a result of the work of Embrace Richmond, thousands of formerly homeless families now have furniture, hundreds of Hillside residents have worked together to make Hillside court a safer, healthier community. Neighbors and merchants are working together to bring about the revitalization of the Historic Brookland Park community. Congregations across metro-Richmond are shifting from doing ministry “for” those in need to doing ministry “with” their neighbors. No one can deny that Embrace Richmond though very small in size is...
Mission Shift Training Update

Mission Shift Training Update

    Embrace Richmond’s core belief is that great neighbors make neighborhoods great. We also believe faith communities can play a critical role in growing great neighbors. This belief in the unique gifts and capacity of the faith community is why when we launched our Great Neighbor Training Academy. Last fall we began offering a special training designed specifically for congregations.  We call this church-specific training, “Mission Shift.”   The goal of the Mission Shift training is to teach congregations how to identify, support and empower local neighborhood leaders. In other words, we teach congregations how to grow great neighbors. Since the launch of the Mission Shift training series, Embrace Richmond has trained more than 150 local congregational members in asset-based community development principles and practices. Our “Mission Shift” curriculum was designed to help congregations make ten fundamental shifts in their mission’s efforts with the goal of developing a more holistic, sustainable, transformational and empowering approach to local missions that goes beyond handouts to real lasting community change. We are thankful for the pioneering congregations and partners who helped us get this training program off the ground – Baptist General Assembly of Virginia, Cornerstone Assembly of God, Chester United Methodist Church, Brandermill Church,  Baptist Theological Seminary, and Union Presbyterian Seminary. We currently offer the Mission Shift training in three formats: A Learning Cohort: This is a small group of 12-15 key leaders from 3-5 congregations who are trained in ABCD best practices with the goal of then taking these principles and practices back to their home church. A Church-based Training: This training is intended for churches who want to...
Our Latest Cohort

Our Latest Cohort

There’s pizza on the first night. It’s good pizza, too. I should have made my name tag before I got a piece; my poor planning left a grease stain on the stark white sticker as I scrawled my name in sharpie. This is our first Tuesday together. Five churches from across the Richmond metro have just begun SHIFT training, the first step in becoming “good neighbors.” There are ten or twelve of us in total- a few representatives from each. It is these people who will go back to their church homes and share what they learned in training. These are the seeds of the next great neighbors Embrace wants to grow. We’re part of a Cohort, one of the two ways Embrace Richmond trains people on ABCD (Asset Based Community Development for those like me who are still learning all the acronyms.) ABCD aims to empower and grow leaders within communities rather than provide blanket, temporary aid. Lasting change. Interdependent relationships. We are not the savior of our city, we are only the hands of the One who has called us to task. Over the next eight weeks, our group will undertake a daunting, exciting, comprehensive process of assessing the health of our church’s ministries, as well as learn how to build the foundation of neighborhood transformation. With any luck, we’ll be ready to go back and invite others into the process. At the very least, we’ll have a good long look in the mirror; a chance to asses our knowledge of the city we live in, our role in missions, and our place in Kingdom. Amen and...
Fellows House

Fellows House

When I stepped onto the porch, my suspicions were confirmed: the house definitely had character. Further inspection only made me more confident. 2209 is a special place. There is a heart here- or at least there was once. My job is to get it beating again. I’m going to need help. I am one of the four inaugural Embrace Richmond Fellows, a pilot program launched by the non-profit community development organization. Over the next year, I’ll be living in community with three people who share the same dream: live in, support and care for a neighborhood on the North Side or Richmond. Through prayer and presence, we’ll be dedicating ourselves to becoming great neighbors: a missional pursuit to do right by our city and to live fully into everything our neighborhood has to offer. We’ll grow roots through Embrace, dedicating ourselves to working for sustainable change in our city. Embrace is accepting applications for the two remaining fellows positions. You’ll live in the house. You’ll have community and shared vision. You’ll partner with Embrace and your housemates to care for your neighborhood and experience the joy that the neighborhood in turn can provide. In short, you’ll learn to be a good neighbor, and you’ll do it with partners by your side. If this sounds like something you’d love, send me an email. I’d love to talk with you...