Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update March 11, 2024

Advocating for Affordable Housing

Last week, dozens of faith leaders, elected officials, and advocates gathered in Albany to rally in support of the Faith-Based Affordable Housing Act. 

The Faith-Based Affordable Housing Act, sponsored by State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Brian Cunningham, aims to facilitate the construction of affordable housing on properties owned by religious organizations in New York State. The bill has garnered support from various legislators so far, the legislation has 18 co-sponsors in the Assembly and 11 in the State Senate. 

Both houses of the state Legislature are planning to introduce their one-house budget proposals today before adjourning on March 14th. 

Photo from: @OpenNYForAll via Twitter

In Martha’s Vineyard, over 1,000 community members, including faith institutions, gathered in support of religious leaders’ call for action on housing. Faith leaders in Massachusetts are advocating for better funding for affordable housing efforts.

House of Worship Development Projects

Several churches in Nebraska are finding new purposes within their communities after being faced with declining attendance and rising costs. Former places of worship are being repurposed into apartments, offices, community centers, and arts spaces. The former Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Benedict was transformed into housing while the Southminster Methodist Church is set to become offices and apartments. Proceeds from property sales are often reinvested into renovation projects or become reserves for the remaining churches. 

The Southminster United Methodist Church. The new owners are seeking historical landmark status before starting renovations. Photo by Naomi Delkamiller/Flatwater Free Press

The Salt Lake City School District and the LDS Church are downsizing their real estate holdings, leading to concerns about the potential demolition of significant community buildings and landmarks for new development. To address this issue, the Planning Commission has proposed incentives to encourage the adaptive reuse of older and culturally significant structures. The proposal, which unanimously passed the Planning Commission, aims to broaden the permitted uses of eligible buildings, allowing for conversions to multi-family residential units even in zones where residential use is currently restricted. 

Reframing Interfaith Families 

Alison Weikel and Rachel Weinstein White propose replacing the term “interfaith” with “Jewish+” to describe Jewish families that include a member who does not identify as Jewish. They advocate changing the narrative within Jewish communities to promote inclusivity and help the community grow. Both Alison and Rachel faced discrimination and felt excluded in the community for having partners that do not identify as Jewish. To change the narrative they are hoping to spread the use of these terms: 

Jewish Adjacent: describes a member of a Jewish family who does not identify as Jewish.  Jewish+ Family: a Jewish family with at least one family member who is Jewish Adjacent

Alison and Rachel believe that Jewish Adjacent family members can inspire and enhance the Jewishness of Jewish+ families, if we invite and engage them. Here are some of their ideas:

  1. Talk to members of Jewish+ families to learn about their lived experience 
  2. Change the narrative in our communities 
  3. Walk the walk when it comes to inclusivity 
  4. Share your story 

“Our Jewish Adjacent family members are adding to the Jewish experience and narrative, not detracting from it. They are not diluting it; they are making it richer.”

Houses of Worship and Community 

Two Episcopal dioceses in Central Pennsylvania have launched the Help, Healing, and Hope medical debt forgiveness initiative, aimed at alleviating medical debt for Pennsylvania residents. The program, a collaboration between Hope Church in Manheim and St. Luke’s Church in Lebanon, has raised over $30,000 through cooperative efforts involving more than 120 congregations and individuals. This funding is expected to forgive an estimated $3 million to $3.5 million in medical debt across 38 Pennsylvania counties. 

The Rev. Ray Jordan (right) offers communion during a monthly in-person worship. Photo provided by First Community UCC.

Rev. Ray Jordan's journey at First Community Church United Church of Christ in Dallas began with offering pulpit supply and eventually led to him becoming the church's pastor, prompting a shift in the church's ministry approach. The congregation faced financial challenges, prompting them to sell their building and adopt a "mission-centered church without walls" model. They invested the proceeds from the sale to sustain their operations and better serve their congregation, leading to increased community engagement and a revitalized sense of purpose.

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