Macon Roving Listeners
Centenary has participated in the Real Communities Initiative by seeking ways to welcome people with disabilities and their families into the congregation, and offering opportunities for them to contribute. In the past, Centenary started a community garden and a transitional housing program for men. Centenary founded the Bicycle Program, which featured adults with and without disabilities as paid employees, working on donated bicycles that they would repair and give to people without transportation.
Since 2012, Centenary has organized an annual summer Roving Listeners program with the goal of finding intentional ways to meet and make connections among people with and without disabilities to make the city of Macon a better place to live for everyone. Roving Listening pays youth and adult supporters with and without disabilities to go into their community, meet their neighbors, and learn more about people’s individual gifts and talents, discover what they love about their neighborhoods, what their dreams are for the future, and how to connect them to others who may share common interests, gifts, or dreams. The Roving Listeners host regular community dinners designed to bring neighbors together and support these connections. They also employ a Roving Connector who seeks opportunities to connect neighbors to one another.
In the third Summer of Roving of 2014, Listeners focused on revisiting neighbors they met over the past two to find ways to connect their gifts and passions to others in the community. They hosted four community dinners, two community clean-up events, expanded their relationship with Star Choices – a local disability support organization that is seeking to be a better part of the community – and provided six mini-grants to community members to teach a class or support a small community building project. As a requirement of these mini-grants, a person with a disability had to be a part of the project team. Additionally, two Roving Connectors were hired to work five hours per week to support the project, deepening connections that were formed over the past year.
In the summer of 2015 and 2016, the Roving Listeners project was asked to come to East Macon to be in partnership with the Mill Hill Project. Mill Hill is an innovative project that combines the arts and community revitalization, spearheaded by the Macon Arts Alliance and the Urban Development Authority. The Roving Listeners are working with the residents of Mill Hill to listen for their hopes, dreams, identify their gifts, and make sure the voices and talents of existing residents are a part of the planning and implementation of revitalizing their neighborhoods. This has involved genuine dialogue and empathetic listening to arrive at a true understanding of the community’s hopes for their neighborhoods. The listeners approached every household in the area and this year recorded the interviews done so that radio quality audio was captured. Also, professional photographers worked with the Roving Listeners in 2015 and 2016 to capture fantastic portraits and candid shots of neighborhood residents. Their relationship with Star Choices continued and they added a new partner, Woodfield Academy, with two students and a teacher from the school working with them.