Portland Network

For the last two years I’ve been encouraging churches interested in figuring out how to be postured more intentionally to serve their neighborhoods, through bringing them together with service organizations for a monthly luncheon and ideas exchange. We started doing this after John M. Perkins visited Portland, and it brought many of us together for inspiration toward loving neighbors, ministering to ex-offenders, and seeking justice among the poor. We’ve been calling our group the Christian Community Development Network (CCDN). It has proven to be very beneficial for those of us who have met regularly. Collaborative efforts have taken place and I think most of us have received encouragement to press on in our areas of ministry. Lately though, I’m sensing from the Lord a need to increase the influence of a network like this.I wonder if there would be a way to bring together helping agencies, civic and neighborhood groups, city-minded educators, the business community, city government people, and churches (including a greater racial diversity than city networks typically have) to share their resources for collaboratively enriching our city. Could a larger network such as this create greater awareness of needs, resources, and opportunities to respond, resulting in greater potential for collaborative endeavors and ultimately greater love shown more consistently to Portland?

To do something like that would take buy-in by influential city leaders and opinion influencing church leaders whose involvement would encourage others to come together, too. That’s the piece that needs to be discerned; who would that be? And do they want something like this? Jeff Spry from City Connections in Little Rock Arkansas contacted me recently. He was encouraged to do so by a representative from the Luis Palau Association. He was told I might be interested to know what they are doing. I had shared with no one at that time what I was thinking, but City Connections is close to what I have been trying to conceive in my mind. Might this be an example that we could modify for the Portland context? I wonder if the momentum toward service generated by Season of Service could move closer to “whole-lives of service” through the kind of inspiration, relationship, awareness, and collaboration opportunities a network like this could provide.Take a look at City Connections’ website and watch the intro video. Could something like this be contextualized to Portland? What if there was a simple format of a once-a-month lunch-time gathering at a consistent city-central location. One helping group or issue could be presented in about 20 minutes or so, and the rest of the time people could network, exchange information/opportunities/needs. If we could get the right people to participate, would you be interested? Would you be willing to help get the right people to the table?

I know there are many conversations going on right now about how to perpetuate service beyond a season; loving Portland, caring for those in need, cultivating a generous Church, resourcing Christian ministries that serve the city (and those are just the conversations I know about). I wouldn’t see this as another competing voice but as possibly a simple and doable way to keep the conversation moving toward outcomes. Just get everyone to the table, build relationships, inform others about what helping people/orgs/churches/groups do, who they are, what they have available and need, then see what folks might be inspired to take back to their people. Basically, it would be about setting the table for dialogue, understanding, relationship, and opportunity. That’s all; we would leave the rest to God. What do you all think?
Clark Blakeman,
Executive Director, Second Stories

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