By Rev. Mark Whitlock
Pastor of Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church and Executive Director of the Cecil L. Murray Center for Community Engagement
(Editor’s note: This is the second part of the article on the USC Passing the Mantle Institute)
The USC Passing the Mantle Clergy and Lay Leadership Institute (PTM) addresses the challenges of gang violence, prison reform, government policies, health, criminal justice, and social services through a learning program for enhancing leadership and building the institutions needed to tackle emerging civic issues. The staff is PTM, led by Dr. Donald Miller, Rev. Dr. Cecil L. Murray, Rev. Eugene Williams, and Rev. Mark Whitlock, is designed to equip pastors, clergy, faith based nonprofit leaders, and church board members for better mission conceptualization, civic engagement models, strategic planning, and partnership building with the public and private sector.
The course creates a learning environment with leading practitioners, politicians, and professors who are engaged in areas related to civic engagement and community development. PTM students are expected to participate in all classes and field trips, and to submit course assignments on time. PTM graduates are required to implement or participate in a civic engagement community initiative.
PTM has four phases approach to community engagement:
Phase I: Two-day Introduction
Usually occurring at the end of June, Phase I is a two-day introduction to the goals of the PTM program. Through instructional teaching, experiential learning and peer-to-peer mentoring, students have their visions of the role of the church and faith leaders challenged and reformulated. This portion of the program works to counter the push to make church services more entertaining than spiritually challenging and morally clarifying.
Phase II: Six-day Residential Intensive
The residential session expands the students’ vision and empowers them to consider possibilities beyond the current state of their communities. The sessions stimulate new ideas and concepts that can be used in practical ways. The sessions emphasize individual and group mentoring, peer-to-peer learning, instructional learning with scholars, practitioners, and theologians.
Phase III: Three-month Practicum
Phase III involves a practicum for applied learning through practitioner teaching and mentoring. Upon completion of paper that describes their civic engagement project and other program requirements, participants take part in a graduation ceremony and receive certificates.
Phase IV: Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement
The Cecil L. Murray Center for Community Engagement is the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture’s newest initiative designed for ongoing one-on-one mentoring with PTM staff, USC professors, USC graduate students, and consultants. Many PTM students continue to stay involved in the program over the course of their studies in the fourth phase of PTM.
This phase includes information sharing regarding training and church resources, notification about events, and peer-to-peer mentoring. The mentoring sessions include practical advice for community mobilization, introductions to funders, and guidance on nonprofit issues.
To learn more about the USC Passing the Mantle Institute, e-mail Rev. Whitlock at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://crcc.usc.edu.