I learned from my pastor buddies this week about a study just released in Canada called The Halo Project. Begun with the certain knowledge that religious communities (churches, synagogues, mosques, temples) hold social, spiritual, and communal value for the cities in which they reside, The Halo Project acknowledged the age-old fruits of congregational life: people are given space to identify and explore belief, participate in rituals of worship and spiritual practice, share in beloved community with friends and fellow travelers, comfort and be comforted in times of suffering, and foster meaningful relationships with their community by serving it well. Some of the most substantial questions of life (like “who am I?,” “Where do I belong?,” and “What’s the meaning of life?”) are engaged in a local congregation, and members are sent forth to do the work of Love in the world.

But what might be a congregation’s economic impact in a city? And how might it be valued? The Halo Project examined 10 such congregations in Toronto and asked: for every dollar spent within a religious community, what is the value of their contribution to the common good of their neighborhoods and communities? The results were staggering!

First, The Halo Project identified a framework of seven broad categories that were common for congregations to provide their communities: open space, direct spending, education, magnet effect (the spending done by visitors to the religious community while they’re in the neighborhood), individual impacts, community development, and social capital & care. Then, they applied that framework to 10 congregations who combined had annual budgets totaling around $9.5 million. What they found was that the common good these religious communities provide for their cities (through things like educational support, weddings, artistic events, and job training) was valued at over $45 million a year. Which means that for every $1 in a congregation’s annual budget, the city gains about $4.77 worth of common good services! The impact of religious communities is staggering!

In a time where our local congregation is undergoing substantial, systemic change; when our sense of identity and space is shifting (from a big-building hub to a more nimble, flexible launching pad); when we’re trimming, prioritizing, and honing in on key pieces of our mission and vision into the future, what a welcome reminder to us that our impact on the community is and can be substantial! Like our sister churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples, we are making a profound impact on Winston-Salem, in ways we may not ever know! What a way for us to live into that “halo” as we “live neighborly” indeed!

Together in the work of Love,
Pastor Emily

Ps- Interested in reading more about The Halo Project? You can do so here! http://haloproject.ca/phase-1-toronto

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