I write this on All Saints Day, and I find myself calling on the name of Don Benedict to celebrate this holy day in the life of the Church. Don’s name comes to mind because I have been one of several Protestants for the Common Good advocates who have been involved over the past year in fashioning the merger with the Community Renewal Society. Don was a key person in leading CRS and in founding PCG. In some ways, our merger talks have been a way to reclaim his unified and grand vision for Christians acting faithfully in the world.
CRS started over 130 years ago, long before Don’s presence, but he helped to shape it into a formidable force for good by insisting on a community-organizing model that both changed peoples’ lives and held those in power accountable. And when PCG started 16 years ago as a clear, Protestant, progressive voice raised in opposition to the Religious Right intent on shaping public policy and educating involved laity, there was Don in the forefront.
Now we are working to knit these two ministries together because we believe that we can be more effective than if we stay separate. CRS brings history, a community-organizing base in Chicago’s neighborhoods, and two splendid publications to the merger. PCG brings a theological vision, a successful pattern of advocacy, and a loyal base of supporters intent on serving the common good (that is you!).
It has been clear from the beginning of our year-long conversations that a merger is the best move for both ministries. This has been confirmed by our fund-granting agencies, as well, who also see the strength of combining vision and advocacy with community organizing and direct action. It will better equip us to build “the beloved community,” in PCG’s terms, and to be insistent in fighting racism and poverty, in CRS’s mission statement.
Both CRS and PCG took a major step earlier this autumn when each Board of Directors accepted a seven-point resolution to merge. This consensus was the result of summer-long planning by a joint relationship team. Now a new group is taking the next strategic step of shaping the organizational chart of our new enterprise. A new Board of Directors will be empowered in December to lead the way forward, with PCG board members included on the roster. Right now a joint search committee is interviewing candidates for a new Executive Director.
So, it is happening, and it is good. And in some ways, perhaps, we are getting closer to what “Saint” Don Benedict had in mind and in heart. Here is a song to sing today:
“Some march with events to turn them God’s way;
some need to withdraw, the better to pray.
Some carry the gospel through fire and through flood;
our world is their parish; their purpose is God.” (Fred Pratt Green, 1977)