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Build healthy communities by connecting

the Rev. Dixie Jennings-Teats
For the Nevada Appeal

As a sociology major in college in the ’70s, I studied life cycles of institutions and my generation’s anti-institutional cry. I think we had no idea that in 30 years we would be witnessing the collapse of major institutions in our society. I am concerned, because a society depends on stable foundations for health, wealth, prosperity and happiness. (If those sound familiar, you may have heard them as the four Chinese New Year blessings.)

A couple of years ago my son called me from the Bay area, where he had moved for graduate school, with information he knew would make my heart sing. “Mom, the public library is next door!”

As our family moved to each new church appointment, one of the first things we did was get library cards at the public library. In fact, when my son was three he received the first library card from the Coast Community Library that started as a volunteer effort where I was then the pastor in Point Arena, Calif. That community effort went on to win recognition as the best volunteer library in the country a few years later.

Libraries and churches are both a part of building community, in my view. My husband and I returned to the U.S. in 1987 to take local United Methodist church appointments. We had, for 10 years, served in appointments to village development work. As we thought about what we would bring to the U.S. and the local church, one of the main intents we had was to help America have healthy communities through our work in the church.

There are so many places that individuals feel isolated and alone, in the wake of community breakdown in the U.S. “Whole-ing and healing” is one way I think about this ministry. We do not have to live cut off from being the most we can be, and there are moments of grace that can “re-weave” our lives, often with the connections we find in community.

Places of hope can be churches with “open hearts, open minds and open doors” (as the people of the United Methodist Church use that phrase) as well as public libraries with access to information and resources for positive and creative living.

Caring for the common good is a reminder that all of us need a chance to participate as whole people in healthy community, for the sake of the world.

• Rev. Dixie Jennings-Teats is co-pastor of First United Methodist Church, Carson City.