Missouri Conference Announces Staffing Change with Focus on Rural Poverty
The Office of Mission, Service and Justice has named Sidney Owens as Community Engagement Specialist. In this full-time role, Owens will serve as the primary Conference contact for local churches in the development of outwardly focused ministries, particularly in rural areas. Owens will continue to serve the coordinator of the ecumenical ShareFest (Festival of Sharing) ministry.
Owens has been working in a part-time capacity with the Conference since June 2017. In her capacity as Festival of Sharing Coordinator, she successfully transitioned the organization from one central Festival event in Sedalia to seven regional gatherings across the state (Dexter, Cameron, Ferguson, Kansas City, Macon, Tipton and Republic) in order to multiply the organization’s reach and impact.
Director of Mission, Service and Justice Tina L. Harris intends for the Community Engagement Specialist to research and propose best practices for rural poverty ministries while helping build collaboration among those communities with shared concerns.
“In her capacity as Community Engagement Specialist, Sidney will help equip our local churches to address rural poverty concerns in their community,” said Harris. “Some communities may be struggling with access to health care, others with low food access and obesity, while others grapple with addiction concerns. Each church understands their community’s needs. Sidney will come alongside local churches as they seek to serve the particular concerns of their surrounding neighborhood and help them implement ministries designed to connect with others beyond the walls of the local church.”
Originally from St. Joseph, Sidney moved to Columbia six years ago, graduating with degrees in health sciences and communication in 2017. In May of this year, she graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a master’s degree in public health. She hopes to use her recently acquired education in health promotion and policy in her new role.
“Churches are made up of community members who know the local culture, context, and interpersonal relationships,” said Owens. “Their familiarity can improve awareness and use of resources that are valuable to reducing the impacts of poverty. Thinking outside the usual ‘church’ context will inspire new ways of sharing the love and light of God while improving the quality of life for our neighbors.”
Part of Owens’ work will include the development of resources, providing grant writing research and support and building a volunteer base focused on rural poverty and global health concerns and initiatives. Owens first day on the job in this new capacity was June 27.