The OCE's mission is to develop faithful and reflective student leaders, through guided civic engagement within mutually beneficial partnerships, journeying together in hope to foster healthy community.
Allow us to explain more of what our mission statement means to us.
We in the Office of Community Engagement believe that our lives as Christ-followers should involve all of our beings striving to seek God in all aspects of our lives. Gordon students are encouraged to reflect as they serve, always seeking to learn more about others, themselves, and our Lord.
Specifically, through service-learning, our students should become critically aware of their lenses (or paradigms or world-views), and, through this awareness, come to re-examine previously held beliefs and appreciate the perspectives of others. When we develop the ability to critically examine ourselves and our experiences, we develop humility and can more easily assume the posture of a learner.
When we are alert and attentive, we can choose to see the image of God in others. We become receptive to what they have to teach. We become pilgrims rather than tourists, asking questions and open to engagement that is life-changing. We form real relationships that challenge us and are mutually-beneficial.
Through service-learning, we seek to develop mature, godly citizens as described here:
“A morally and civically responsible individual recognizes himself or herself as a member of a larger social fabric and therefore considers social problems to be at least partly his or her own; such an individual is willing to see the moral and civic dimensions of issues, to make and justify informed moral and civic judgments, and to take action when appropriate.” (Excerpts from Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000.)
Our approach to service-learning and community engagement is developmental in its approach. Students become increasingly cross-culturally competent as they move from initial contact with a different community to deeper engagement, from tourists to pilgrims to sojourners.
Clear connections are made between studies and service. Through academically-based service-learning, our office works directly with professors, departments, and student clubs, making connections between academic inquiry and justice-seeking action, emphasizing the importance of place-based learning, of involvement in the larger community, and of life-long civic engagement. Our office’s ten-year history and rootedness in the city of Lynn serves to strengthen these commitments and goals. Engagement in the city is a major emphasis for the OCE, as students are exposed to and learn to reflect upon larger structural injustices within an urban context.
The Office of Community Engagement (OCE) creates, coordinates, and supports programs of service-learning and community outreach. Students, faculty, and staff work within mutually beneficial community-based partnerships, the majority of which are based in Lynn, but also across the North Shore and greater Boston area.
The Gordon in Lynn Program seeks to build on the assets in the larger community by operating under the leadership of community organizations, schools, and social service agencies. Gordon students engage the community, seeking to learn from community leaders and members while actively participating with them in the process of realizing their vision for the city.
Reciprocity and mutual respect are emphasized. The dignity of places and persons is always central to our partnerships, which are designed mutually, and mutually-owned. Service must be actually and truly useful, as defined by the agency or community being served, in order to be service, and the benefit of the service must be sufficient to offset the community’s investment. Students are encouraged, while always from the posture of learners, to be proactive and develop initiative.
As the Church, our hope is in the coming kingdom of God. While the final establishment of God’s perfect kingdom is “not-yet,” His proclamation is that the kingdom is now already with us. We are blessed with the ability to participate in this kingdom, one in which justice and perfect peace (shalom) reigns. We work together, in relationship with our peers and coworkers, but also with our community in Lynn and elsewhere, mutually mediating God’s grace to each other. Our work is incarnational, as we strive to become truly a part of the community we serve. We emphasize mutuality, respect, and empowerment. We seek relationships that are transformational, both for Gordon students and for the people of the larger community. Together we seek justice and lament injustice, always glorifying God through our actions and trusting that God will use this work to mature and bless us and our community.
A healthy community is one in which peace reigns; not a negative peace, merely defined by a lack of conflict, but a positive peace, characterized by love, respect, social justice, and hospitality. We seek shalom, and we long for the beloved community that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described, where we are truly reconciled with God and with one another. We believe in integral mission, where social justice and individual salvation go hand in hand. We strive towards relationships across difference, unity in diversity.
The OCE and the service-learning we coordinate should help our students learn to respect and love people across racial, economic, sexual, religious and ethnic barriers within a spirit of mutuality and reciprocity. We also seek to help students integrate their faith into all of their lifestyle decisions--whole-life stewardship--and become more fully engaged in a life-long vocation of shalom-building.