Workshops to address poverty on agenda for Center for Strong Communities

A newly formed collaboration of churches is sponsoring a day of “eye-opening” workshops on poverty.

Scheduled for June 17 and coordinated by Good Neighbors, Inc. and the Center for Strong Communities at Maryville College, the workshops, entitled “Our Eyes Were Opened: Reaching Out to People in Poverty,” will bring together members from at least seven churches and the Blount County Ecumenical Action Council.

The program is intended to help participants learn more about people who live in poverty and to deepen the discussion on how churches and individuals can offer assistance in real and significant ways. The workshops will be held at Maryville College.

The Rev. Beth Lindsay Templeton of United Ministries in Greenville, S.C., will lead a morning session called “Helping Others: Servant or Sucker?” The three-hour workshop will explore successes, failures and frustrations of attempting to help others and will offer tips on how to be more discerning and effective in the ways individuals serve needy populations.

Also scheduled for June 17 is an afternoon session for teachers and leaders of youth programs. “Loving Our Neighbor for Teens” is an array of interactive workshops and simulations designed to help teens better understand classmates who may live in poverty.

Templeton draws from more than 25 years of working closely with people who are poor and marginalized, as well as with groups and individuals who want to help people with minimal resources.

According to Jeanna Stewart, director of Good Neighbors, the non-profit first presented the workshop idea to the Center for Strong Communities as an effort “to strengthen our community by providing more effective ways to reach out to those in need.”

The collaborative program has grown to include New Providence Presbyterian Church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, St. Paul AME Zion Church, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Fairview United Methodist Church, Maryville First United Methodist Church and the Blount County Ecumenical Action Council.

“I am thrilled to see the collaboration taking place between various church communities and Maryville College,” she said. “What an amazing opportunity to share resources and link faith and service in wise and compassionate ways.”

Dr. Billy Newton, director of the Center for Strong Communities and a Presbyterian minister, said he has high hopes for multi-church activities.

“I hope this program will rekindle the idea of churches coming together across traditional boundaries to learn, serve and provide leadership in our communities,” he said. “There is nothing more central to the Gospel than ministries of love that can overcome the tragedies of poverty and injustice. I think every church faces the challenge of living out that call in the broader community.”

The program is open to all congregations, service organizations and the general public, but space is limited and advance registration is necessary. Because of generous financial support from sponsoring groups, the only cost will be an optional $5 lunch at Maryville College.

Registration is online at the Center for Strong Communities website,, or call 865-273-8894.

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