Engaging our Rural and Appalachian Communities: The Roanridge Project

In 2019, the Diocese of Southern Ohio was awarded a Roanridge Grant in the amount of $15,000 to engage three to five rural and/or Appalachian communities in the exploration of the call to Becoming Beloved Community. Because there are varied responses to the strategic vision of Becoming Beloved Community based on socio-cultural context–particularly with regard to racial reconciliation and justice–there is a need to broaden and deepen our community engagement efforts. This award will support efforts to partner with some of the congregations who are looking for ways in which this vision resonates and impacts their communities. 

Below is an excerpt of the proposal as well as an acknowledgement of those congregations who have expressed interest in participating.

SUMMARY OF PROPOSED PROJECT: 

Approach: We know that a one-size fits all approach will not be effective in engaging the diversity of congregations in our diocese. Participatory action research provides a framework to invite members of those rural and/or Appalachian communities to explore what Becoming Beloved Community means for them and begin to identify potential, community-driven actions. This project aims to highlight intersections of race and class and ways in which those intersections have historically impacted lived experiences in these communities. 

Outcome: This participatory action research project proposes to: 1) engage 5-12 members from 3-4 key rural and/or Appalachian, White communities to explore and deepen understanding around race and class divisions; and 2) together identify ways for these participants/action researchers to share learnings with their congregations as a way to invite others in. 

Methods:

  1. Photovoice and ethnography: Participatory action research (PAR) teams will be created in 3-4 rural communities across the diocese. These PAR teams will help frame the problem, co-design the research plan, and analyze the data. Using photovoice and ethnography as the core data collection methods, participants will begin to locate themselves within the stories of race, racism, and class. Storysharing and dialogue will foster deeper connection and community building among the teams.
  2. Community share-outs: Each PAR team will design and lead community share-outs for their congregations and communities in which they will share what they have learned from their action research. These community share-outs will end by identifying some potential opportunities for action, aimed at moving congregations along the continuum of reconcilers, healing, and justice-makers. 
  3. Learning session: To connect this work conducted in rural communities across those communities and to the broader work already underway in the diocese, we will host an overnight learning session. Those invited will include the PAR teams from this project along with members of the existing network (including task force members, ambassadors, and other developing leadersWe will share learnings, identify opportunities to partner, and build community toward a deepening, shared vision. 

We have begun to organize with interested congregations to explore the purpose and plan. Those congregations joining this call include: Trinity Episcopal, Hamilton; Church of the Good Shepherd, Athens; Christ Church Episcopal, Ironton; and St Paul’s Episcopal, Chillicothe.

Stay tuned for more information about the final Learning Session in June/July! All will be invited!