State of Shalom:  A Three Year Summary of Shalom at Drew

By Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D., National Director, Communities of Shalom, Drew University

December 31, 2010, marked the completion of three full years of having the National Shalom Resource Center at Drew Theological School.  For each of these three years, the focus of the Shalom Initiative has been on the following priorities and activities:

2008Consolidating the movement, visiting sites, creating a database of sites and coordinators, offering technical and relational support, raising the profile of Communities of Shalom (Cof S) through UMC Annual Conferences, special events and at interfaith settings; strategic planning for the future of Shalom (Five-Year Plan 2012); and launching a Shalom Summer Internship program and a “Prophetic Leaders in Residence” program at Drew to “bring the world to Drew and send Drew into the world.”

2009Promoting Shalom Sites (locally, nationally and internationally), moving from an Annual Conference to a regional structure, building capacity for regional training and local funding through national resourcing, and expanding the movement through a National Shalom Summit in South Carolina (which brought 275 participants together from 26 States, representing many of the 100+ shalom sites in the USA. This number was in addition to some 400 “hits” from people who tuned in to all or some of the sessions broadcast on the internet). Our partner, GBGM, produced and mailed a promotional brochure to 36,000 UM churches offering training and soliciting national support.

2010Developing ShalomZone Training® by creating new EPIC[1] training materials that embody historic goals, new strategic threads[2], and three priorities of Shalom at Drew.[3]  Six national trainers were brought together to review historic training manuals and develop a new 7-session, 42-contact hour, 7-month training program and follow-up units, complete with a Participants Workbook, Leaders’ Guide, and an online “Tool Box” of Shalom resources (including links, clips, PPTs, images, outlines, exercises, content presentations, and a variety of teaching methods).  The new ShalomZone Training ® is projected to be available to regional trainers and participants in April 2011.

Shalom is Still on the Loose

Dean Maxine Clark Beach brought CoS to Drew in January 2008.  Formerly housed at the UM General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) in New York, Shalom found a new home base at Drew for its 78 community development sites—known as “shalom zones.”  After 12 years as DMIN Director, I was asked to give leadership to the Shalom Initiative when it came to Drew.  Dean Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, replacing Dean Beach, is the new Convener of the National Shalom Committee.

The National Shalom Committeeis the United Methodist body that guides the vision and mission of Communities of Shalom as a denominational initiative residing now at Drew and extending itself beyond Methodism in the world.  The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), which provided over $800,000 in initial funding for the Shalom initiative, continues to raise seed grants for shalom sites through its Advance Office in New York.  The National Shalom Committee, chaired by Bishop John Schol of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, continues to promote the Shalom brand globally, develop new training materials, find new funding sources, and certify Shalom sites.   Dr. Chris Boesel and Rev. Tanya Bennett represent Drew faculty on the National Committee.  My administrative assistant is Peggy Grow.  Annie Allen, MPA, MDIV, serves full-time as coordinator of Shalom Training and Drew’s summer internship program.  Three other national trainers plus 7 regional trainers comprise the Shalom training team.  Three Drew graduate students work as technologists managing the database and online presence of CoS on FaceBook, Twitter and our public

Since coming to Drew, Cof S moved from being a national denominational program to an international ecumenical resource and deployment center for prophetic leadership and community development.  The movement grew from 78 to 135 sites, and expanded, deepened and developed over the past three years; and Shalom is starting to bear good fruit.  



On January 1, 2008, 78 Communities of Shalom migrated from the General Board of Global Ministries in New York to their new home base at Drew Theological School.  Since then, we’ve trained, reactivated and added 57 new sites for a total of 135 in the USA, Africa and Haiti. 

Mayor Robert Reichert of Macon, GA. became the first American Mayor to initiate CoS in his city.  The Mayor’s Office, with the help of Drew summer intern Dawrell Rich, organized six shalom teams in six neighborhoods in need of community development.  

Rev. Tanya Bennett represents Communities of Shalom on the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace.  One of the spin off ministries of this coalition is Nine Strong Women—a grass-roots mentoring work with young women (13-16 years of age)–led by Jayda Jacques, a member of the Bloods gang who is committed to engaging gang culture to reduce youth violence in Newark. 

President Robert Duncan of Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma, proposed to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) that they be granted permission to use the CoS training model to train their sports teams in a more systematic and transformative approach to civic engagement, character development, and community development  than was previously represented in their historic approach to community service.  The NAIA approved a pilot program for Bacone College, requesting that a full report be presented at a future national conference of the Association.  

Local Shalom teams can be found in 26 States and six countries following their mandate to “seek the shalom of the city” where they have been sent (Jeremiah 29:7).  Weaving the threads of shalom in frazzled communities with hidden assets, ministers of shalom are involved in “transforming the world, one community at a time.”   Seewww.communitiesofshalom.orgfor more information about what some of the 135 shalom teams are doing in the world.


The Jessie Ball duPont Fund provided stipends for 12 MDIV students to participate in Drew’s Summer Internship program for 2010, and to explore a calling to social justice ministry in the community. They were assigned to Shalom sites in Buffalo, NY, Montclair, NJ, Spokane, WA, Pharr, TX, Dallas, Los Angeles, Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, Mizak, Haiti, and Mzuzu, Malawi.  Student interns worked 40 hours per week for 4-10 weeks in community settings, and participated in online class discussions, site supervision, theological reflection with a mentor, and consultations with instructors who did site visits during the placement.  Some met their supervised ministry or cross-cultural requirement in this way.   Since 2008, a total of 30 Shalom interns have been trained in community organizing and community development through the summer internship program, and are now practicing “Ministers of Shalom.”


Three new academic courses were designed and offered over the past three years from the Shalom Initiative:  1) Theology and Practice of Shalom, 2) Prophetic Leadership in the Congregation and Community, and 3) Asset-Based Community Development.  MDIV students can take these courses from time to time, and DMIN students can earn a 3-year degree in Congregational and Community Development focused on asset-based community development (ABCD).   Ten urban pastors from multiple denominations, plus an executive in the Episcopal Church, enrolled in the new Doctor of Ministry program at Drew in 2010.  At Dean Jeffrey Kuan’s initiative, a second DMIN class focused on community development is being recruited in the San Francisco Bay Area, to be offered at Glide United Methodist Church in the Fall.

Bearing Fruit

In our efforts to consolidate the movement nationally, promote shalom sites globally, and develop a new, quality, ShalomZone Training® product, the Shalom Initiative is bearing good fruit within Methodism and beyond.  Communities of Shalom caught some public attention this year through local news media, city governments, federal agencies, and national partners, and are positioned to move into new frontiers in the years ahead. 

Learning from and growing after a successful National Summit in 2009 in Columbia, SC, we are preparing for an International Shalom Summit in 2012 in Los Angeles—the birthplace of Communities of Shalom twenty years ago. 

As National Director, I am on the road much of the time nurturing the network, working with national partners, representing Drew and helping the Advancement Office fund Shalom for the long-term.   Annie Allen and I often are invited to speak at churches, seminaries, conferences, and community groups about the theology and practice of Shalom and how to apply for training.

Bishop John Schol, Chair of the National Shalom Committee, closed our September meeting in Chicago by stating:  “In just three years, we have leveraged 1.7 million dollars for faith-inspired community development work in the USA and Africa. We started or re-activated 57 new Shalom sites for a total of 135, representing over 1,350 people involved in the Shalom movement.  We’ve trained, commissioned and sent 30 student interns to 20 sites, and impacted thousands of residents in the places where Communities of Shalom has taken root.   Let us give thanks.”

[1]Experiential, Participatory, Image-driven, and Connective (Leonard Sweet’s postmodern approach to pedagogy, worship and evangelism).

[2] The historic goals and strategies have now been integrated into Six Strategic Threads with which shalom teams re-weave the fabric of community:  And the way to remember them is to spell SHALOM:

·         Systemic change

·         Health and wholeness

·         Asset-based community development

·         Love God, self and neighbor

·         Organize the community

·         Multicultural collaboration

[3]  Three priorities of Shalom at Drew:1) greening Shalom; 2) interfaithing sites; and 3) internationalizing the network.