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Pass the Peace Feasts

Pass the Peace Feasts: Breaking Bread, Building Bridges 

Purpose:  To gather around the table, share a meal and begin to know and respect each other. Our common humanity dictates a desire for connection. Drawing upon these ancient and modern, sacred and secular practices, Pass the Peace Feasts invites youth, young adults and police from different backgrounds and ethnicities to gather for a meal and trust-building conversation. Launched in the Fall of 2016 by Saint Mark’s United Methodist Church in collaboration with Myers Park UMC and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the program will soon begin its 3rd round of meals in area restaurants. This program is the result of a young Saint Mark’s adult and her fellow members wrestling to respond to yet another deadly encounter between police and the black community. Seeking engagement, not confrontation, but requiring more than prayer, marches and town hall meetings, the largely African American congregation on Charlotte’s west side found an answer in Pass the Peace Feasts, a program of positive interaction for people whose paths would not likely cross. The goal is that following meals, the participants will say to one another, “You matter to me”.

Our Community: Standing at a Crossroads

Background: Racial tension spawned by economic, cultural and judicial inequity is not unique to Charlotte. But the tragic shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott and the ensuing unrest that followed combined with the jarring revelation of Charlotte’s dead last ranking for economic mobility among the fifty largest U.S. cities sent shockwaves throughout the community. This resulted in a March 2017 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force Report which identifies many of the most pressing challenges facing Charlotte and offers strategies and recommendations to address them, including “improving police-civilian relationships through increased trust”. We believe Pass the Peace Feasts can help achieve this recommendation. The report clearly states that we are at a crossroads where we must decide whether we remain isolated and distant from those unlike us, or we seek opportunities to engage, share conversation and build trust.

The Model for Pass the Peace Feasts

The meals: Ethnically diverse groups of youth, adults and police meet around the table for open and honest conversation about race, relationships and trust. Groups of 8-12 participants (grades 7-9, 10-12, or adult) commit to meet for 4-6 meals in local restaurants. Each group includes 2 police officers and each youth group includes 2 adult facilitators. All participants are asked to complete a pre and post survey designed to assess changes in perception. When all meals are completed, a celebration is held to recognize all participants and afford an opportunity for each to say, “You matter to me”.

Join us in Passing the Peace Feasts…”You Matter to Me”!  Contact us at passthepeacefeast@gmail.com.

Contact: Nathan Arledge at nathan@mpumc.org.

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