Community

Johnson County Interfaith Cluster forms to tackle community organizing, social justice

Cluster begins as extension of Quad Cities organization

Pastor Anthony Smith (right) president of the Johnson County Interfaith Cluster and Pastor Tim Smith pose for a portrait at New Creations International Church in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, March 8, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Pastor Anthony Smith (right) president of the Johnson County Interfaith Cluster and Pastor Tim Smith pose for a portrait at New Creations International Church in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, March 8, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — At a city council meeting in early February, a group of faith leaders of different backgrounds one by one introduced their new organization, the Johnson County Interfaith Cluster, to the community it would now work to improve.

The Johnson County Interfaith Cluster currently has 16 different religious or community activism organizations affiliated with it. The cluster’s intention is to get involved with community activism and support racial equality.

Pastor Anthony Smith, with New Creations International Church and president of the cluster, said the new cluster is in the “building phase,” meaning it’s working on new relationships with organizations in and out of the cluster as well as undergoing community activism training. Members meet once a month, with the next event scheduled for March 27.

"... we can be interdenominational and multicultural but at the same time we all share the same values."

- Pastor Anthony Smith

President of the Johnson County Interfaith Cluster

“We’ve had a very positive reaction from our city officials and from the community,” Smith said. “Our organization is about building relationships and not tearing them apart so we want to work with city officials. We want to work with whatever organizations that are working in the realm of social justice.”

The Johnson County cluster is a branch of the already-established interfaith organization in the Quad Cities.

The cluster includes numerous member organizations of different religions and denominations like Catholicism, Lutheranism, Judaism, Islam, among others. Organizations like the Center for Worker Justice are also affiliated.

“The one thing that is great about us is we can be interdenominational and multicultural but at the same time we all share the same values,” Smith said. “We all value life. We all believe that people of color should be treated equally under the law. And we believe that everyone should have the same opportunities in this life to excel and to grow.”

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The next step for the organization will be to hold listening sessions with members of the public because the community will drive the cluster’s actions, Smith said.

Smith said his goals for the organization is to build a “powerful” organization in the state, branching into other major cities in Eastern Iowa, such as Dubuque, Cedar Rapids or Waterloo. Also, Smith wants his cluster to successfully organize and work to create racial equity.

“It’s very obvious that there is an atmosphere of hate that is being exhibited in this time and we have to create an atmosphere of love,” Smith said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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