Attend Communities of Shalom 20th Anniversary, in L.A. in October

July 12, 2012

By the Rev. Dr. Michael Christensen
Director, Communities of Shalom, Drew University

On behalf of Communities of Shalom International, based at Drew University and offering ShalomZone Training worldwide, I invite you to the 20th Anniversary Shalom Summit in Los Angeles (October 3-6). We hope to bring together representatives from more than 100 Shalom sites in the USA, Africa, Haiti, and UK for a time of sharing, inspiration, networking, and training.
The three-day event commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Communities of Shalom will feature expert presentations and peer learning from selected sites that are growing healthy communities – the theme and focus of this year's Summit in Los Angeles. It is the high point of a yearlong focus leading to the expansion of ShalomZone Training services at more regional centers, and adding online access to the onsite training delivery program.
Why Gather in LA?
Communities of Shalom began in south central Los Angeles in the spring of 1992, sparked by the fires of civil unrest, in the immediate aftermath of the not-guilty verdict of the police officers who beat motorist Rodney King. Since then, we have been faithful in seeking Shalom in the places where we live and work. (For some of the highlights, see Shalom Celebrates 20 Years and an interview with me about the 20th Anniversary.)
What have we learned in 20 years? What have we accomplished together? And what is the future of Shalom? It's time to return to the birthplace of Communities of Shalom and to reflect, celebrate, and advance in response to these questions.
Who Will Be There?
To help us remember and celebrate the origins of Communities of Shalom, we are delighted to welcome the Rev. James Lawson (left) as Co-Chair of the Shalom Summit. Once hailed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as "the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world," Rev. Lawson was a key civil rights activist in Memphis and a prophetic leader in Los Angeles at the time of the social uprising in LA that followed the not-guilty verdicts in the Rodney King case. (See Origins of Shalom article by Bishop Joseph Sprague, to read about Lawson's key role in the instigation of Communities of Shalom).
To help us reflect on lessons learned in our first 20 years, we also invited Lynda Byrd, National Director of Communities of Shalom (1998-2004), who was instrumental in the rapid growth of the movement, and who (along with James Lawson) will receive the "Spirit of Shalom" award at this year's Summit.
We also will welcome Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of Asian Pacific American Legal Center, a leading community activist and organizer in Southern California, as Co-chair of the Summit to help us envision the future of Shalom. 
Featured Speakers Include:
Rudy Rasmus, Pastor of St. John's Downtown Church in Houston (at left), who will speak on how to become a Shalom Church.
[Editor's note: Rev. Rasmus was a keynote speaker at the 2012 California-Nevada Annual Conference Session.]
Ted Hart, CEO of Hart Philanthropic Services (a huge hit at the 2009 Summit), who returns to train us how to increase our capacity by cultivating an online presence for fund development and sustainability. Listen to his training session at the 2009 Shalom Summit in Columbia, South Carolina by clicking here. 
Mayor Robert Reichert, who helped start seven ShalomZones and declared his city of Macon, Georgia, a "City of Shalom," and who will bring greetings and offer a workshop on the "Politics of Shalom: How Government partners with neighborhoods for community health." 
Actor Gaius Charles (below, star of the television series "Friday Night Lights" and "Pan Am," who also appeared with Angelina Jolie in the movie Salt, and recently made a guest appearance on the television series "NCIS"), who will inspire us to go to the next level of Shalom ministry. Gaius graduated in May from Drew Theological School with an MDIV degree, and will continue to combine his career in acting with his vocation of ministry in the Church and community. He served as a Shalom intern at Echo Park community of Shalom in the summer of 2010, and as a Minister of Shalom in Jinja, Uganda in 2011. 
What's the Biltmore?
The historic Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles was chosen by the local host committee as the site for the Summit, for several good reasons:
  • Vibrant, diverse, downtown location near many exciting attractions.
  • Historic significance (where the President has stayed, the Academy Awards began, famous movies have been made – a destination site of Eastern elites and celebrities, with "old world charm" and classic European features.
  • Still a popular set for many current movies and television shows, and just a fun place to stay in LA!
  • One of the few big hotels that have fair labor practices and union workers – the successful outcome of years of local organizing and justice advocacy.
  • Internationally owned, a multicultural setting, and in proximity to particular and distinctive neighborhoods in downtown Los Angeles (Pershing Square, Farmers Market, Skid Row, and cultural and Financial centers).
  • Favorable discount hotel rate* in prime season, in a big city, during a national election year.
(*Note: Only in effect through August 1 – so don't delay!)
For more information about the hotel services and amenities, click here.  
Why Community Health as the Theme of Summit?
At our National Shalom Summit 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina, we focused on the "S" in Shalom and "stepped up from community service to systemic change and community transformation." At this year's International Shalom Summit in LA, we will focus on the "H" in Shalom – how to grow healthy communities. "Health is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease." (WHO) Health, Healing and Wholeness is what is meant by the fullness of Shalom – for individuals, communities, and the world.
Public health research and practice from many disciplines show that a person's social, economic, political, and physical environment is more important than genetics and lifestyle in determining a person's potential for a healthy life. Personal and community health are determined by the day-to-day conditions in which we work and live. These conditions are the social determinants of health. These factors determine our susceptibility to disease and everyday health. Review of these factors – plus the often-overlooked spiritual determinants of health – will help us improve community health and foster Shalom in our sites.
Learning from Each Other
Between the three general sessions, hosted by Cal-Pac Annual Conference, the General Board of Global Ministries, and Drew Theological School, we will learn "best practices" from each other on how to grow healthy communities – in micro seminars, practical workshops, and site visits to Shalom in action in Los Angeles. There also will be plenty of time to enjoy downtown LA, meet new friends, walk the Shalom Labyrinth, and build relationships with each other.
Who Should Come, and Why?
We urge every Shalom Community, local church, theological school, and Annual Conference to sponsor and send at least one representative to the Shalom Summit 2012 to be encouraged, equipped, and renewed for the ministry ahead.
We invite you to come and join us, alone or with others, to experience the Shalom movement, and to learn how ShalomZone Training can transform the way you minister in your community.  
How to Participate?
The easiest way to register for the Shalom Summit is online at Or download the online registration form here (180Kb PDF) to mail in an individual or group reservation.
For further information, contact us at the Shalom Resource Center at Drew University: or 973.408.3848.
Consider this your personal invitation! I look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles, Oct. 3-6.

Michael Christensen is an elder in the California-Nevada Annual Conference. Photo above (by Paul "Spud" Hilton) was taken at the 2012 Cal-Nev Annual Conference Session.