This is a fantastic story and I am happy to be able to share it here. This story demonstrates the role of libraries as facilitator and the amazing results that students can achieve through hard work and determination.
This story begins in the fall semester of 2017 with the graduate course Urban Community Challenges, cross-listed by the Truett Seminary and the Garland School of Social Work. The instructor, Dr. Stephanie Boddie, requested that her class identify areas within Waco with a high risk to impoverished youth. Once these areas were identified, Stephanie wanted her students to locate unused or otherwise vacant church properties where social support services can operate in partnership with the churches. Sinai Wood, Associate Professor & Documents Librarian, and Josh Been, Digital Scholarship Librarian, partnered with Stephanie to collect the data and build an interactive visualization. (See here for details on this project.)
One particular seminary student in this class grew excited about the ability to identify unused church properties. Entirely unrelated to the course, this student was part of a group of seminary students seeking to form an International Church Ministry, a church based in Waco co-pastored by several students and where sermons each week would be rotated among 4+ languages. These students happened to be looking for an unused building.
In a brief conversation with this student, Sinai and Josh determined that meeting with Tim Randolph, Director of the Waco Regional Baptist Association (WRBA) needed to be the first step to help this group to establish their church. As Sinai was the previous Board Chair of the WRBA, she knew that Tim was the best person to bring to this conversation. Sinai called a meeting in the conference room in the Graduate Research Center (GRC), attended by the seminary students, Tim, Sinai, Josh, and Bill Hair, the Religion, Seminary, and Philosophy Librarian. Tim could tell them about the resources that are available to them through WRBA and the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT). He brought materials and offered guidance in starting a church. A conversation that was highly beneficial to the students since Tim had firsthand experience in starting churches.
Armed with this knowledge, the seminary students moved their weekly meeting to the GRC Conference Room every Friday afternoon, making plans to form the International Church Ministry. In January, they contacted Sinai and Josh again for help in finding all unused or otherwise vacant church properties in Waco.
Using the 20-foot wide visualization screen in the GRC Vizualization Studio, Josh lead them through the process of acquiring open data from the McLennan County Appraisal District. Filtering this data for religious exemptions and for vacant as the state use, and then mapping out the remaining possible properties. The students’ plan in the coming months is to drive around Waco and visit these potential sites for the new International Church Ministry.
On Monday, February 12, 2018 (yesterday as of this writing), the seminary students received confirmation from the Truett Seminary allowing them use of the chapel for worship and Bible study each Friday from 11:30 am-12:30 pm.
— written by Josh Been & Sinai Wood