D.C. Chapter learns about White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

by RCC member Cherilyn Crowe

Melissa RogersReligion communicators in Washington, D.C., got an inside look at the White House’s faith-based office at their November meeting. Melissa Rogers, the executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, gave a presentation to the D.C. chapter of the Religion Communicators Council, providing an overview of her work and sharing how different faith groups are working together to advance a common good.

Rogers, who has been in the role since March, began by thanking the religion communicators in the room for their work "translating" what each faith group and organization does to a larger audience. In her role, Rogers coordinates agencies across the government, which form partnerships with faith groups and community groups to meet the needs of others.

During the meeting, Rogers spoke of three key areas in which the office is a distinct feature of the Obama administration. First, it stresses non-financial partnerships as well as financial ones. For example, the office serves as a conduit for uniting groups who are working on the same area of interest. It recently brought together religious and non-religious leaders who are all focused on stopping human trafficking. While the office does not give out grants, it does work to inform others how to apply for grants in an effort to connect individuals and organizations to the resources they need.

Second, the office works diligently to reach out to groups across the religious, theological, ideological and political spectrum, bringing people with divergent viewpoints together to find common ground. Finally, Rogers highlighted that the office is focused on neighborhood groups as well as faith-based groups. She said the mission of the office is not to promote faith – that is the job of the individual religious organizations. The White House office is focused on the common good of Americans of all faiths and those who do not subscribe to any faith group. Rogers said service and respect for the Constitution unites us all, and faith groups can play a part in making life better for all Americans.

The office has many projects on the horizon for 2014, including efforts to expand a food service program, which subsidizes nutritious summer lunches for students who need them and works with community partners to deliver those meals. Rogers said she is always open to new ways the office can partner with any religious organization.

For more information on the office and its resources, visit the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships web site.

Ken Bedell, member of the RCC Board of Governors and the DC Chapter, is a Senior Advisor in the related Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership Center at the U.S. Department of Education.

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