Our Kids and The Opportunity Gap

In 2016, Bishop Hirschfeld convened a new Commission to lead our church in learning about, and addressin,g the opportunity gap facing low-income and vulnerable children in New Hampshire. Much of their work is based on the challenge of the “opportunity gap” as presented by Dr. Robert Putnam in his book “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis."

The Bishop’s “charge” to the Commission is “to find and serve the Child Jesus in our communities by helping congregations move away from asking “how can we get more young people from our community in the doors of our church?” to “how can we go out the doors of our church to serve the needs of young people in our communities?”  His goal is to create an easier “on ramp” for committed, talented, and appropriate people in our churches to serve all our children as tutors, mentors, and advocates.  It is in seeking and serving Christ in the faces and needs of children that our churches will be renewed. 

The commission is chaired by Ed Doyle of Grace Church in Manchester. Ed is a music and band teacher based at Manchester Central High School. Members of the commission include: The Rev. Tim Brooks, Rector of St. Paul’s Church in Lancaster, and a teacher in the Northumberland School District; Tenley Callaghan, of St. Paul’s Church in Concord, attorney with Cleveland, Waters and Bass; Jack Lewis, of All Saints in Peterborough, who also serves on the Diocesan Council and Finance Committee; Dian McCarthy, of St. Matthew’s in Goffstown, Executive Director of Crispin’s House Coalition for Youth, and Chair of the Goffstown School Board; Melissa Richmond, of Union Church in Claremont, Founder and Executive Director of the West Claremont Center for Music and Arts; and Shea Sennett, of St. Matthew’s in Goffstown, attorney with the public defender in Nashua; The Rev. Geof Smith, of St. James in Keene,  risk manager for C&S Wholesale Grocers; The Rev. Pete Woodward, of Trinity Church in Meredith, former head of the Holderness School. Tina Pickering, Executive to the Bishop, serves as Diocesan staff liaison to the commission.

The commission has divided its work into three areas: research and data collection, fundraising and grant making. The research and data collection group has designed a survey to collect information about efforts to address the opportunity gap already underway in churches throughout the diocese. Please make sure your congregation has responded to this survey so that we can see the fullest possible picture of how the Spirit is already inspiring our efforts. This group will also be talking to other faith communities and leading non-profits to learn more about areas for high impact intervention and possible partnerships.

The fundraising group hopes to increase resources available to churches that are moving into the community to address the gaps for children.  The grant making group will be assessing the most effective ways that churches can address the opportunity gap to determine where to invest additional resources.

The commission will be meeting roughly once a month through 2016 and welcomes questions, concerns and ideas.

Contact: Tina Pickering, Executive to the Bishop. 603/224-1914.

To learn more about The Opportunity Gap in New Hampshire and a national solution, view the 2015 Diocesan Convention presentations.