Building Bridges Between Churches, Schools

One + One Dallas director Jason Lewis shares First UMC Dallas’ story of partnership, planning and participation

First UMC Dallas was one of many to answer the Bishop’s call to embrace children throughout the North Texas Conference by mentoring them one on one, hence “One + One.” After prayer and discernment, First UMC Dallas chose to pursue a partnership with Joseph J. Rhoads Learning Center, located four miles away in South Dallas/Fair Park. Five years later, the partnership is still growing and evolving; the students, teachers and church participants have built a relationship on trust and cooperation that is facilitating academic excellence and community bridge building.

This is the energy that led to One + One Dallas. In seeing what we’ve been able to accomplish at J.J. Rhoads, we realized the model for this work should be based on transformative service, rather than the typical transactional service that designates groups as “us vs. the other.” This pursuit of holistic community through transformative service is modeled after Jesus’ own approach – being present among the people and allowing service to be defined by the needs and desires of those people. By showing up faithfully and persistently, listening to and meeting the immediate needs of this community and working in partnership to position all involved for empowerment and success – that is how we transform families, communities and our society at-large.

The long-term goal of One + One Dallas is to see every school within the Dallas Independent School District partnered with a faith community. By solidifying equity in public education, directly supporting historically under-funded, under-resourced schools serving historically under-appreciated people, we create a more just Dallas. When all children in the city of Dallas are reading proficiently by fourth grade, we are fostering a trajectory of student success and the creation of a prosperous community for all.

Since our inception in February 2018, we have partnered, planned and participated with dozens of faith organizations in the Fair Park/South Dallas area. Since August, focusing on the 75215 ZIP code as a start, we have established a faith/school partnership in seven of eight schools. We celebrate and are encouraged by this, for we initially planned a year’s time to make this much progress. This momentum just shows there is a real desire to build a bridge, together as one, to overcome the injustices that systematic oppression upholds. We will build that bridge one partnership at a time.

Are you ready to be a bridge-builder for the city? Is your church ready to lead in the effort for a more just Dallas? We need partners who are ready to exercise bold faith and answer the call to serve selflessly in our community. Come alongside us as we work to transform Dallas, one ZIP code at a time, for 2019 and beyond.

To learn more about One + One Dallas, email executive director Jason Lewis.

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2019