Do you want to meet our African American neighbors? Our Latino neighbors? Our Muslim neighbors? Our Catholic neighbors?

Do you wonder what you could do to make southern Fairfax County a better place to live for everyone? Do you ever wish you could persuade a government official to make an important change in southern Fairfax County and know you have hundreds of people adding to your voice?

Here’s your chance.

While I was on sabbatical last spring the Committee on Ministry invited members of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church to reflect on what they would like to celebrate at the Annual Meeting in 2017? A summary of the responses was reported in the August 2015 issue of the Windmill. The top three responses focused on engaging in social justice outreach, more diversity in membership and relationship building with neighboring communities (churches and non-profits).

I returned from sabbatical with the same goals! Social justice happens when we focus our energy on particular projects and have the power to make change; diversity results when we extend our front door to include the larger community; and relationship building happens best in person-to-person dialogue.

To that end I’ve been meeting with neighboring clergy and lay leaders about how to collaborate on important issues effecting southern Fairfax County. I believe the best vehicle for our goals is VOICE. Fortunately, it’s clear that VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement:, is ready to revisit its focus in Northern Virginia.

An organizational meeting is being held at Bethlehem Baptist Church at the end of month. The meeting is for the purpose of seeing if there are enough leaders in our community who want to discern what are the needs of people living in southern Fairfax County, and how best to address those needs.

The power of VOICE is that we pool our resources – our voices – into one powerful group doing education, training and advocacy for the needs of our residents who are most vulnerable. It may be reducing gun violence, helping our immigrant neighbors, impacting climate change policies, getting better low-income housing, getting better distribution of resources for our schools, improving after school programming, getting better public transportation, getting better medical facilities or a dental clinic. The challenge is to ask the residents of southern Fairfax County to find out what the greatest needs are, then we discern on what and how to focus our collaborative power.

The power of VOICE is the relationships with our community members. That happens through a wonderful series of dialogues in relational meetings. We’ll learn the skills of relational meetings, and discover the joy of in-depth friendships that are diverse and personally fulfilling.

If you are interested in a being a VOICE leader please contact me about what that means and how you can make a commitment to helping our community.

In strong faith, Kate R. Walker