“CWS is about our members, partners, and a myriad of colleagues working together, as institutions and as coalitions, but even more, as people. That is the vision of our faith and our values.”
With those words, Church World Service president and CEO John McCullough, described the relationship between CWS and its member communions as representatives from the various mainline Protestant communions gathered in Chicago to discuss their work together at the humanitarian agency’s first annual members meeting on April 29-30.
Notable among the attendees was the chief executive of the Church of the Brethren, one of the founding member denominations of CWS. Attending with general secretary Stan Noffsinger were Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer and associate executive director Roy Winter, who also is past chair of the CWS Planning Committee.
Representatives from 16 member communions braved bad weather or participated remotely via the Web in discussions and presentations about the agency’s work. A consistent theme: Through CWS, denominations come together to do in partnership what none could do alone.
Throughout the gathering participants also focused on the history and importance of the agency’s ecumenical, interfaith CROP Hunger Walks. The walks help support CWS work, especially grassroots, hunger-fighting development efforts around the world, and hunger-fighting programs in US communities where walks are held.
“We do the CROP Hunger Walk because we are people of faith,” said Ruth Farrell of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “It is part of who we are as Presbyterians and as Christians. Presbyterians want to be in relationship. They want to be in mission. We walk to fight hunger together with our partners in CWS.”
In a remote video address, Erol Kekic, who directs the CWS immigration and refugee program, emphasized the importance of CWS’ ecumenical ties with member communions to the agency’s extensive work resettling refugees. “Refugee resettlement is at its best when it has the support of the local church. When refugees arrive in the US they are beginning a new life and the local church can make all the difference,” Kekic said. Local congregations working with CWS assist refugees in adjusting to life in their new communities in a number of ways, from accompanying them to meetings to helping them find employment or enroll children in school.
The involvement of the local church–in all its forms–as part of the CWS family was lifted up by voices in Chicago and from around the globe.
In summing up the gathering, former CWS board chair Bishop Johncy Itty of the Episcopal Church said, “This is a wonderful reminder of how important we are as a faith community working together as CWS. I am appreciative of the opportunity to hear the story of the people who have sacrificed to get us here and to listen and hear what is happening with our member communions.”
— This release was provided by Church World Service media contacts Lesley Crosson and Matt Hackworth. For more about Church World Service, go to www.cwsglobal.org .