Three congregations in Goldsboro, North Carolina come together to pursue collective service, ministry, and school partnership.
We’re thrilled to welcome the Dillard Middle School Partnership Project as the newest member of the network! We connected with Rebecca Bean, a Deacon at St. Andrews’ Episcopal Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina through Bishop Skirving of East Carolina and were thrilled to hear of her work with Dillard Middle School. Their “Partners in Education” program with the school is a testament to community dedication, as there are THREE congregations who support this high-need school. Read on to learn more about this dynamic partnership.
AOC: What motivated your congregation to launch your partnership?
RB: St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, was looking for new ways to serve the community at the same time I was discerning a call to the vocational diaconate. A former middle school teacher, still drawn to serve middle school students, I began exploring how the church could partner with a local middle school. Dillard Middle School was the obvious choice because it is the closest middle school to our church and is a high poverty, high need school. The administration was excited that we were interested in supporting the school and helped us make the connections we needed to get started. St. Stephen’s and Dillard Middle School became official “Partners in Education” in 2011 and the Dillard Middle School Partnership Project (DMSPP) was launched.
Last year, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church began participating in the partnership after I was assigned there for an internship during my diaconal education process. St. Andrew’s is a small, historically black congregation that is even closer to Dillard Middle School than St. Stephen’s. Parishioners at St. Andrew’s responded swiftly to the needs at Dillard and has added new energy and direction to the partnership. When I was ordained as a deacon, Bishop Rob Skirving challenged me and the DMSPP to work toward making our partnership a true community effort by inviting St. Francis Episcopal Church, the third Episcopal church in Goldsboro, to join us and to find ways to move this ministry outside parish walls. Fortunately, St. Francis responded quickly and we are just beginning to learn what new ideas and gifts they will bring. We have really entered a new phase of ministry as we seek greater cooperation and ways to expand this partnership in new directions.
AOC: What needs are you meeting in your partner school?
RB: Currently, the Dillard Middle School Partnership Program maintains a clothing closet for students, stocks a breakfast pantry, collects school supplies and hygiene items throughout the year, responds to crisis situations through the school social worker, fills special requests by teachers, supports teachers with refreshments or small tokens of appreciation, hosts a Welcome Back to School Celebration for faculty and staff each summer during teacher professional development days, and numerous other small projects that meet needs as they arise.
AOC: What is your partnership’s biggest on-going challenge?
The biggest challenge has been finding more opportunities for hands-on work directly with students. While there have been some individuals involved in tutoring or mentoring, so far, we haven’t found a model that really works for us in creating a consistent, meaningful contact with broad participation. Working with students during the school day has logistical challenges for both the school and volunteers and operating any kind of program at a church site during non-school hours presents transportation challenges for students. We are working on pursuing both of these options in new ways. We need to find more creative options that allow parishioners the opportunity to get to know the Dillard Middle School Community and form relationships that will benefit everyone. As the DMSPP has begun to grow and include more people, there is now new energy and new ideas and resources, so we are looking forward to watching the partnership begin to grow more in this area.
AOC: What positive impact have you seen in both your congregations and your partner school so far?
RB: Dillard Middle School teachers and staff members know about us and light up when we see them. It means a lot to them to know that people in the community care about them and what they do. As participation in the partnership at St. Stephen’s has developed, the congregation has come together to respond to all kinds of needs and support has been consistent and sustained. Now that three parishes are involved in the DMSPP, these congregations are talking and communicating and working together in new ways that we hope will translate into other areas of ministry. We are just beginning to explore the ways we can utilize the unique gifts each parish has to offer. We just finished co-hosting our back to school celebration, which included breakfast and lunch and a morning staff meeting at St. Stephen’s. Volunteers from all three parishes participated, prepared dishes, and donated supplies for this event. Seeing what can happen when we work together is exciting and makes us optimistic for the future!