Dozens of local folks with a heart for those in need gathered Nov. 8 for the 2012 fall faith forum, presented by Anoka County’s Compassion Action Network and staged at Constance Free Church, Andover.
Representatives of community groups, church leaders, school district personnel and folks from various county groups and service organizations spent the morning exploring compassion and justice as driving forces in the Anoka County community.
The theme, “Renewing a Compassionate Community: Mobilizing Anoka County,” had attendees exploring the power and impact of compassion and justice on individual and community lives.
Also, there was opportunity to learn ways compassion is manifested and what it takes to sustain a community of compassion.
Booths in the gathering room displayed and described resources provided for Anoka County’s homeless, for the elderly, for children, for those in poverty, for the lonely and for the disenfranchised.
Kathy Tomlin, vice president of social justice for Catholic Charities, addressed those gathered for the forum and encouraged the faith community to partner with the community at large to foster a thriving community.
“If one hurts, we all hurt. If one thrives, we all thrive,” Tomlin said and described Catholic Charities’ programs and services offered to the homeless, refugees and immigrants, children and older adults.
Tomlin then delivered some sobering statistics:
From 2005 to 2010 Anoka County has recorded a 27 percent increase in people living in poverty.
The state of Minnesota, Tomlin said, has seen a 20 percent increase in poverty in that time.
“How should the faith community respond?” Tomlin asked, and then offered this action plan:
• Examine your view of the world.
• Engage in one-on-one insights, information and advancing conversation.
• Exercise non-judgmental civil discourse.
• Keep building toward responding to crisis.
• Make choices.
Patty Wilder, a non-profit consultant, also addressed the faith forum.
Wilder began by defining compassion, saying it is “when you see someone suffering and have a desire to take action to help.”
She then talked about the mental and physical health benefits of creating compassion and quoted the Dalai Lama, who said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Wilder led the group in a compassion meditation exercise and encouraged participants to practice that meditation 30 minutes each day.
She then listed a few of the ongoing activities taking part in the International Compassion Action Network, of which Anoka County’s Compassion Action Network is a part.
Anoka County Compassion Action Network
Anoka County’s Compassion Action Network is the first in the state of Minnesota. The network is a collaborative effort of Anoka County Human Services, faith communities and non-profit organizations “working together to help individuals discover the value of their own gifts when connected with the gifts of others and the power of this linkage in meeting our communities’ needs,” as stated at www.compassionnet_mn.com.
The network operates under this mission statement, “Compassion Action Network fosters collaborative opportunities to creatively address community needs in Anoka County.”
According to Wilder, the Metropolitan Council has established Thrive MSP 2040, an initiative that is “planning and listening to developers, cities, builders, transit groups and people concerned about poverty in an effort to create a thriving metropolitan community.”
She then encouraged faith forum participants to gather input and share ideas with the Met Council.
“The Met Council will release a plan probably in mid-winter, so get your thoughts together and share them,” Wilder said.
“It takes a village. We need two-generation strategies as we move toward a shared future.”
In summation, Tomlin prompted action, saying, “What is required of you? To act justly. To love mercy. And to walk humbly with your God.”
Sue Austreng is at firstname.lastname@example.org