Faith based community organizing was introduced to St. Louis in 1990 through the efforts of a group of interfaith clergy. They enlisted the service of the Gamaliel Network to help them create three organizations. Those organizations, or clusters, served North County south of 270, North City, and South City. Later two other clusters were formed, one north of 270 and one in South County. There was also a Spanish speaking cluster for a short time. In 1997, the need to act more regional was recognized and Metropolitan Congregations United was formed. By 2012, all of the geographic clusters were dissolved and MCU had become one united organization.
MCU’s work, through the original clusters until today, has focused on issues our member congregations are most concerned about, issues that cannot be answered with charity or service but demand a transformative social justice response. MCU has been active in keeping local schools open, holding errant landlords accountable, local economic development, immigration reform, helping to create and pass legislation at state, local and national level impacting children’s health, foreclosure solutions, transportation and job creation. MCU has been active over the years in moving people to the polls and in ballot initiatives to create fairness in payday loans, minimum wage and democratic practices.
MCU is currently engaged in Break the Pipeline, a campaign addressing the issues that criminalize the behavior of children and move them from school to prison. These issues are found in the areas of Education, Policing and Juvenile Justice and include:
• Ending out of school suspension: 27 area school districts have committed to ending and finding alternatives to out of school suspension (OSS) for pre-K to 3rd grade within the next 5 years. All are also committed to reducing OSS for all grades through in school alternatives. More often than not these alternatives recognize the trauma students experience in their lives.
• Creating or modifying Memorandums of Understanding between all school districts with School Resource officers assigned to their buildings: currently 4 district MOUs have been created with several more in development.
• Increased training for police in implicit bias awareness, use of force and interaction with children and youth: over 15 departments have reviewed and reformed their training endeavors and policies, some have included special training for dealing with persons with mental illness.
• Reforming the juvenile justice system in St. Louis County: currently partnering with the state and the Department of Justice to increase community and impacted families’ engagement and increase use of alternatives to detention.
Mission Statement: MCU puts faith into action by developing leaders who move their congregations, organizations and communities to change public policy for the common good.
Vision Statement: People of faith creating just systems through political change.