Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cincinnati church starts first BVS volunteer community house.

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and Cincinnati (Ohio) Church of the Brethren have partnered to open the first BVS House as part of an initiative to develop community living opportunities for volunteers.

The initiative, which was announced last year, envisions a number of volunteer community houses supported by BVS and local congregations, each housing four-to-six volunteers serving in full-time BVS projects and committed to intentional practices of life together.

The BVS House opened in early October in Cincinnati and has welcomed four fulltime BVS volunteers: Katie Baker of Taneytown, Md.; Ben Bear of Nokesville, Va.; Laura Dell of Holmesville, Neb.; and Anne Wessell of Hershey, Pa. All are Church of the Brethren members.

On Sunday, Oct. 11, the congregation held a dedication service for the volunteers. The Cincinnati church has rented a house for the volunteer community and provides spiritual support including weekly meetings of congregation members and volunteers. For their part, the volunteers have committed to worship with the congregation, take part in the program of the church in the local community, and provide 40 hours a week of work for a local project.

Ben Walters is one of the co-pastors of the Cincinnati congregation, along with co-pastor Roger Cruser, and has provided much of the impetus for the church’s involvement, according to BVS director Dan McFadden. Having served as a BVS volunteer at the Washington Office in the 1990s, Walters was one of the first to express interest in the BVS House initiative, and has worked with BVS staff since then to make it a reality. He even personally visited the most recent BVS orientation to recruit prospective volunteers and "talk up" the project.

The Cincinnati church is in the Walnut Hills neighborhood of the city, which borders upscale areas as well as rough neighborhoods, McFadden said. In a recent communication with BVS, Walters wrote that the congregation is "building a new model of church in Cincinnati, where most of our work is outside our walls."

Two of the four volunteers at the BVS House in Cincinnati will work with the congregation’s program for children and other programs in the community surrounding the church. The others will serve at Interfaith Hospitality Network, an ecumenical agency partnering with local congregations to provide housing for homeless families, and Talbert House, a large agency providing a community-wide network of social services.

The new community emphasis in BVS is part of a partnership with Volunteers Exploring Vocation through the Fund for Theological Education (FTE) and a grant from the Lilly Foundation. Dana Cassell is helping to guide the initiative as the BVS volunteer staff for Vocation and Community Living.

"I am excited that this is a reality, that a BVS House exists," she told the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board during a recent report. "This is a partnership of something new--which actually is really old, the concept of intentional Christian community--with something established." For more information contact

Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline

No comments: