By Fred Koenig
Sidney Owens has a drive to help communities have healthier lives, which led her first to a dual-degree in health science and communications and then to a Masters of Science in Public Health from the University of Missouri-Columbia’s School of Health Related Profession.
“I wanted to work on public health concerns with a broad focus rather than in a clinical setting,” Owens said.
That compassionate drive is faith-based. Owens is a lifelong Methodist and credits much of her faith formation to when she was at Savannah UMC and her pastor was Rev. Cindy Buhman. Owens will now be putting her education and motivation to work with the Missouri Conference as the new 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 ministry through Festival of Sharing.
“I know a lot of people in rural communities and have come to understand a lot of issues they are faced with, such as lack of health care resources,” Owens said.
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,” Harris said. “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.”
Owens is looking forward to expanding her work in the Missouri Conference. “Churches are made up of community members who know the local culture, context and interpersonal relationships,” Owens said.
“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’s 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.