Dinwiddie Leaders Connect with Faith-Based Leaders in unique roundtable meeting

By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Email: Click Here
Posted: Feb. 12, 2018 | 2:45 p.m. 

DINWIDDIE – On Monday, January 29, Dinwiddie County Government officials, representatives of the board of supervisors, members of the school board, school principals and officials from across the county, and pastors and leaders of the faith-based communities from all of Dinwiddie; came together for the first time for a truly unique meeting, or “think tank,” as described by County Administrator, Kevin Massengill.

“This meeting is a long-overdue effort to identify opportunities for collaboration between government, school officials and the schools, and our faith partners to better meet the needs of residents,” said Dr. Kari Weston, Superintendent of Schools.

Both Massengill and Weston indicated that Dinwiddie’s faith-based communities had been at the top of their lists for inclusion and collaboration with government and school officials for quite some time.

“This meeting has been a long time coming, and I am pleased by the level of participation and excitement in the room.  If we are going to succeed, we need to make the Church an important part of each and every day; counting them amongst our greatest assets and resources,” said Dr. Mark Moore, Chairman, Board of Supervisors.

“The purpose of today’s meeting is to share, to listen, to discuss the assets and the resources we have here in Dinwiddie County, to talk about better ways of service, and to gain relationships today,” said Massengill. He spoke of building and fostering strong relationships between government and all faith-communities across the county. He recalled an incident where he and William (Bill) Chavis, Vice-Chair, Board of Supervisors, had been at the General Assembly to speak on the passage of a bill. Just before they were to speak, they were apprised that they would no longer be needed, because the bill had passed. They were then invited to attend a spontaneous Bible Study with the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Supreme Court Justices. Massengill spoke of how honored and humbled he and Chavis were at attending the study.

“It was an opportunity to see the legislature recognizing their faith in their environment. Today, so many governments are torn between Church and State. I believe what we were able to glean from that was that we should not hide from Church and State issues. There are boundaries, and we should respect those boundaries, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to move together,” said Massengill.

After this experience at the General Assembly, with the help of Chavis, a Bible Study was begun in Dinwiddie Government. It included county employees and pastors. The Bible Study was very successful and well-received, and Massengill suggested that all pastors and officials of the faith-based communities throughout the entire county, should have a voice, input, and be heard by Dinwiddie government, the school board, and the schools.

“Dinwiddie is a vast county of 507 square miles. If you were to take Colonial Heights, Petersburg, and Hopewell, geographically; all of Prince George County; and 41-percent of Chesterfield County; that is the size of Dinwiddie County. In large communities, what is extremely important is that you have community engagement opportunities. Our churches, in many ways, already serve in that capacity. So, all of us coming together today is serving to put us in that think tank role,” Massengill said.

Massengill went on to say that he has asked his staff many times about when reflecting on the issues of their lives—if their lives were more influenced by their Church and faith or if they are more influenced by the government. In years past, it was perhaps the Church that most of us turned to for most issues. In recent years, many feel that the government is now perhaps turned to for most issues affecting our lives. Is this right? Is this wrong?

“The government doesn’t always get things right. They have been known to screw things up,” said Massengill. “We try really hard to deliver the best services we can on a day-to-day basis. If you look specifically at any one government, especially with our social problems and other issues that exist, governments can fail, kingdoms fall, civilizations always seemed to be plagued with problems—and they do not last. One thing that we know will last, is our relationship with the faith-based communities, which is where the answers to so many problems exist. We have to listen to their input, voice, and advice,” said Massengill.
Massengill went on to point out that 58 times in the New Testament, the term “one another” is used. It is used to say help one another, love one another, be good to one another, and listen to one another. To many of those attending this first-ever meeting, it must have felt as if this first-ever collaboration of Dinwiddie government officials and employees; board of supervisors; school board members; school officials and employees; and members of the faith-based community from across the entire county; was one of these “one another” moments.

Dr. Weston challenged participants to break up into groups—each group consisting of members of the faith community, government, and school officials. She instructed the groups to work on one thought: “What keeps you up at night?” All of the groups worked diligently on this question.

Afterwards, a pastor or church official went up to the podium and presented their group’s answers. A listing was made of the many varied and diverse answers. From this listing and responses, suggestions, and future collaboration; Kevin Massengill and Dr. Weston are going to take all pertinent information and develop an asset map for the county.

Clearly, this asset map is already well on its way, as one Church has already identified that it has a clothes closet for those in need; another has a program for single mothers; and yet another has a program for opioid addiction.
It is Massengill’s hope that a group consisting of 10 to 12 of the pastors or officials from the faith-based community, form a committee that would report to the county on a regular basis. He also plans that the entire group: to include government officials, the board of supervisors, school board members, school officials, and all of the representatives from the faith-based community meet several times each year.

Any Dinwiddie County pastors or church leaders that were unable to attend this initial meeting and would like to be notified of future meetings, please contact Stephanie Wray, at (804) 469-4500, extension 2103. With this continued collaboration and the constant update of the Assets map, the county will have a better handle on what it has in the way of assets, and identification of areas of need.

“Imagine the opportunities that will present themselves when we combine the wisdom, experience, and resources of the schools, county, and churches. We are about to move this county forward in a way that it has never seen before,” said Dr. Weston.

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