New Faith Based Group Launches in Rochester

05.05.14 | Bill Price

Looking to put their collective spiritual weight behind tackling various worldly woes, a collection of Rochester-area churches have formed a faith-based community organization.

The Rochester Alliance of Communities Transforming Society, or ACTS, officially debuted Sunday with an unveiling held at Trinity Emmanuel Presbyterian Church on the city's southwest side.

The group, made up mostly of representatives of area churches, as well as one labor union, is a part of the Gamaliel Foundation Network, a Chicago-based non-profit organization that specializes in teaching faith-based groups about community organizing.

The aim of Rochester ACTS is to use the church pulpit somewhat as a bully pulpit — get various disparate faith groups together to identify particular community issues that need addressing, and train those groups' leaders on how to put their collective weight behind the fixes, said Marvin Mich, director of social policy at the Catholic Family Center.

"We'll have to analyze the issues," Mich said. "Then we'll try to build relationships with state or business leaders on making that change."

Still be to be determined is what those issues and sought-after changes will be, though they likely will revolve around "social justice" issues such as poverty, violence, and education, Mich said.

"What we're trying to do is organize people power and resources — money —and have a disciplined approach."

The congregations of the individual groups will help determine what those issues are, Mich said. Membership of Rochester ACTS includes Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Baber AME Church, Sacred Heart Cathedral Community, Sisters of Mercy, St. Joseph Church in Penfield, and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

"It's groups you might not see normally working together," Mich said.

Unlike the Greater Rochester Community of Churches, Rochester ACTS will deliberately aim for a wider membership beyond mainline Christian faiths, Mich said. And one of ACTS' immediate goals is building its membership with other Christian and non-Christian flocks.

"We'll couple arms with other groups," Mich said. "This is to bring congregations together."