While each church maintains its own legal status and denominational ties, they worship together and operate as one congregation.
“We really felt strongly that our community needs to see churches working together,” said Marrese-Wheeler.
That belief in working together led Marrese-Wheeler and the Rev. Pat Siegler, her co-pastor at Common Grace, to join the first cohort of Awaken Dane, which hopes to create “a movement of churches awakening to God’s call, forming life-giving friendships and partnerships, and growing in love for their home communities” in Dane County, home to Madison, the state’s capital.
Funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Awaken Dane brings together mainline, evangelical and Black congregations in the city — a rare feat in a time when churches remain divided along denominational and political lines in much of the country. Pastors of those churches spend two years together, building friendships and learning how to help their congregations engage in ministry outside the walls of the church.
The idea is to “tell a better story,” said Jon Anderson, executive director of the Madison-based Collaboration Project, which has partnered with the Wisconsin Council of Churches, a campus ministry called Upper House and the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary to lead Awaken Dane.
“There is a growing disinterest in denominational divides, with people saying, ‘Can the church just be better? Can they tell a different story than what we’re seeing in the broader culture?” Jon Anderson of Awaken Dane https://t.co/gLZviuvRrJ via @RNS
— Bob Smietana (@bobsmietana) March 9, 2022