First United Methodist Church has just completed a second summer of our program called Staging A Miracle. It's a summer program designed as a pilot toward a year-round center for children and the arts, geared toward low income families, similar to the one we saw at the Patricia M. Sitar Center in Washington D.C. We saw and were inspired by that center at the City of God Conference in 2007.
This program invites children from first through twelfth grades to be involved for five weeks in music and visual arts workshops leading toward performances in the city. Three evenings a week they come to the church with their families. We start with dinner, and then move into classes and workshops for every age, toddler through adult. See a local news report about the program here.
This year we made a huge step forward in the program by making partnerships with local practicing artists, who taught the children, and local community foundations and corporations who funded the program. We raised about $25,000 for this year's program, almost all from sources outside the church. This program runs completely outside the church's budget.
In addition to the performances (3 on Saturday evening and one more as part of worship on Sunday), the children's artwork (chalk drawings and photography) were on display at the downtown City Library for a month this fall. Momentum continues to build; we've had a number of calls from people outside the church already, asking how they can get involved next year! One of our major funders this year was a foundation that is headed by one of Sacramento's City Council members, who has invited the Staging A Miracle kids to be engaged in other arts projects around the city as well.
We are learning again and again that the church can do its best and fullest work only through partnerships. I am seeing also that the success of this program has provided a significant boost in morale for the congregation, which now feels confident to take on many other projects that would have felt far beyond our capacity before.