Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries

This profile was last updated in 2014

Mission

The mission of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries is to mobilize congregations and communities across economic, religious, racial, and ethnic boundaries so that, in partnership, they can work more effectively for a just society. As a leading regional catalyst for cross-cultural and interfaith understanding and collaboration, CMM unites communities to work for social and economic justice in metropolitan Boston and beyond. Through creating opportunities to dialogue, learn, worship, and engage in social action, CMM’s goal is to bridge the divisions that separate individuals and institutions: geography, race, religion, class, culture, and the fear of difference.

History

Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries is the oldest Boston-area interfaith coalition of congregations addressing issues of social justice and inter-religious/interracial/cross-cultural understanding. At the height of America’s civil rights struggles, representatives from many of Boston’s faith communities went to march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington D.C. and from Selma to Montgomery. According to Cooperative Metropolitan Ministry’s Executive Director, Alexander Levering Kern, many activists returned to Boston and realized that the issues of racism and economic injustice were as pressing in Boston as they were in the south. In 1966, inspired by the nonviolent methods and the radical vision of social change promoted by Dr. King, fourteen Jewish and Christian congregations came together to form Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries (CMM). Since that time, CMM has worked with its member congregations to establish the “beloved community” that Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned. Together they have helped to create over 1480 units of affordable housing, one dozen anti-poverty programs, and significant legislative campaigns. They have also worked on behalf of, and alongside, at-risk youth and families, homeless families, children of incarcerated parents, new immigrant communities, and victims of the genocide in Darfur, among many others. CMM’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was notable: when the storms devastated the Gulf Coast region in August 2005, CMM coordinated a unified and effective response through its strong partnerships. Working together, member congregations provided material and social assistance to several families who relocated to the greater Boston area, and raised thousands of dollars worth of monetary, food, and in-kind donations for the Gulf Coast region. Other recent collaborations have included the One Family Campaign to End Homelessness, the Amachi Program, Multicultural Youth Councils, an Emergency Assistance Fund, and significant Muslim-Jewish Dialogue.

Organizational Structure

CMM is a coalition of approximately 70 member congregations and 20 member organizations, which is led by a Board of Directors, Advisory Council, staff, volunteers, and Social Action Interns. Currently consisting of Christian, Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, Muslim, and Baha’i faiths, member congregations join CMM to expand their networks and to help alleviate the social problems related to poverty, social injustice, and structural violence. Each congregation supports CMM financially, participates in CMM’s programs and advocacy efforts, and designates one or two persons to serve as its CMM Representatives. The Representatives disseminate information about CMM programs and advocacy initiatives and relay their congregations’ concerns and interests to CMM. This ongoing feedback shapes CMM’s program and assures that it continues to be relevant and effective. Organizational Partners are nonprofits and community ministries sharing key goals and values with CMM (e.g. the Lewis D. Brown Peace Institute and the Massachusetts Literacy Project) CMM also works with dozens of clergy associations, law enforcement agencies, schools, after-school programs, youth development programs, professional associations, the Boston Ten Point Coalition, the National Ten Point Leadership Foundation, and many other social and economic justice groups.

Programs

The work of CMM is divided into four primary program areas: community meetings and dialogues on social action and cross-cultural understanding, congregation to congregation partnerships, the Interfaith Youth Initiative (I-FYI), and the Partners for Justice Advocacy Network (PJAN).

Community Meetings and Dialogues

The group holds monthly board meetings, an annual meeting every fall, and various fundraising events. CMM also holds periodic dialogues and community meetings that are open to all. See CMM’s website for a current meeting/event schedule.

Congregation to Congregation Partnerships

CMM strongly believes in the value of building relationships between pairs of member congregations from diverse traditions or communities. The partnership model, as Kern calls it, creates a strong foundation of personal relationships that can lead to larger networks of dialogue and action. Since its inception in 1995, the program has led to eight congregational partnerships. Working together, partnering congregations have established important programs such as after-school programs, a transitional house for Haitian deportees, and the development of a youth arts center.

The Interfaith Youth Initiative (I-FYI)

The Interfaith Youth Initiative (I-FYI) includes an annual nine-day summer overnight leadership and peacemaker training program, as well as ongoing retreats, social action and service projects, and vocational/educational mentoring. The program is focused on five core “streams”: building bridges, training leaders, engaging faith, making peace, and serving others. As stated on the CMM webpage, the goal of the program is to “interpret and enact Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s radical vision of Beloved Community through the eyes of the millennial/hip-hop generation.” During the program, teenagers between 15-18 are empowered to define a vision of justice and peace, and to express that vision through film, art, spoken word/poetry, music, dance, drama, service, and theological reflection. Accompanied by graduate school facilitators and college interns, the teens gather in affinity groups throughout the week to learn about each other’s identities and beliefs. Daily workshops increase their knowledge of peacemaking skills and the various faith traditions represented. Through volunteer service and field trips, the participants engage in civic action. They learn skills of leadership, legislative action, and organizing when they tour the State House, meet with legislators, and plan a peace vigil. The week culminates with a Multimedia Celebration where students share their artwork. Highlights from 2007 included an original poem called “Speak” and a choral reading of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, performed by four diverse young women. After the summer institute, regional events encourage the participants to maintain their relationships and stay active in the interfaith peace and justice movement. Ongoing mentoring provides support to students as they pursue their leadership, vocational, and educational goals.

The Partners for Justice Advocacy Network (PJAN)

According to Kern, “CMM’s Partners for Justice Advocacy Network (PJAN) brings together congregations to better understand concrete issues of social justice and to act together through legislative advocacy work to address these issues. Through this initiative, network participants, congregations, lawmakers, and the wider membership gain direct, meaningful contact with people from various communities. Congregations and community members gain skills for constructive civic engagement, while lawmakers learn from constituents about our shared concerns for creating ‘Safer Communities for All, Affordable Housing for All, Quality Education for All, and Social Justice for All.’ Strategies include CMM E-newsletter action alerts, educational workshops and forums on key issues and advocacy skills, delegations to legislative hearings and State House advocacy days, and other forms of public witness. Additionally, CMM offers local forums with legislators and communities, fosters cross-cultural congregational advocacy, and mobilizes staff and volunteers in calling, letter-writing, petitions, and writing letters to the editor around selected legislative priorities.” While CMM’s focus is local interfaith action for justice and peace, the coalition recognizes the imperative of global action as well, remembering Dr. King’s warning that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Based on that imperative, CMM’s Board voted to join the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur and to divest their funds from Fidelity Investments and other companies doing business with Sudan. Many other religious organizations from Massachusetts have joined the coalition, making it a broad interfaith effort to end the genocide in Darfur. Another project example is their partnership with the Advocacy Network on Family Homelessness based in Concord-Acton. In 2007, CMM sent delegations to the Interfaith Dialogue on Politics and Global Warming, the Interfaith Summit on Immigrant Justice, the Hearing on Massachusetts State Divestment from Darfur, and the Intercommunity Solidarity Day celebrating the ongoing construction of the Islamic Society of Boston’s mosque and cultural center.

Other Ongoing Work

Through the Material Assistance Program, CMM collects clothes and basic household items for distribution to homeless, low-income, and/or new immigrant and refugee families and individuals. In 2007, CMM and one of its organizational partners, the Women’s Theological Center (WTC), convened a committee of community leaders to guide a year-long series of research and action-driven focus groups around the theme “In Search of Beloved Community.” The results revealed several areas of concern, including violence in various forms such as street violence and the structural violence of racism and economic injustice, hate crimes, militarism, etc. All communities were deeply concerned about violence in schools and threats to youth. See the CMM website to read their findings.

This report was written in conjunction with Alexander Kern, Executive Director of CMM.