Once a year, 26 congregations from all around Lexington come together in an exciting meeting to generate power to address serious problems in our community:

  • The problems in our education system that harm our children and set up our kids for failure
  • The lack of affordable housing that is especially impacting our friends and neighbors who have severe mental illness
  • And the violence making our neighborhoods unsafe

This year B.U.I.L.D’s goal is to gather 2000 people of faith at our Nehemiah Action on Tuesday, April 27th at 7 PM to confront the decision-makers who have the ability to change these systems. Your presence can really make a difference in the power of that meeting!

There are two options to attend the 2021 Nehemiah Action:

  1. Come to the Drive-In Rally at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary at 601 Hill N Dale Rd. Bring your family and decorate your car!
  2. Stay at home and log onto Zoom! No computer? No problem, you can call in over the phone!
Here’s what’s happening before the Action:
  • There will be sign-making materials available in the parking lot at Mary Queen on Thursday, April 15th from 6-8 PM. We will meet in the small handicap parking lot off Clays Mill road with posterboard, markers, and more. Come decorate your car for the Stop the Violence Rally and for the Nehemiah Action!
  • On April 20th at 6 PM at Shiloh Baptist Church (237 E. Fifth Street) we will gather together in our cars for a socially distant car rally and a processional through the city to honor the victims who were killed in shootings throughout Lexington united in our message that the violence must stop! Click here to register!
  • The Action Rehearsal is Thursday, April 22nd from 4-6 PM on zoom. To keep things running smoothly the night of the Action, we need volunteers for the in-person floor team, parking, registration, and more. If you can serve in these critical roles please contact Katherine Goetz (ksgoetz@live.com). There will be an in-person training on Thursday, April 22nd at 7 PM in the parking lot at Mary Queen.

Let’s rise up and BUILD!


BUILD Wins Commitment for SaferSanerSchools and Support for Increased Affordable Housing Funds

On Tuesday, April 27, 101 Newman Center parishioners and friends attended the Nehemiah Action Assembly, where BUILD leaders secured a commitment from First District Councilman James Brown to advocate for $10 million from the American Rescue Plan to be allocated to affordable housing for low income and mentally ill Lexington residents. BUILD also obtained a commitment from Acting Superintendent of Fayette County Schools Marlene Helm to contract with the International Institute for Restorative Practices to set up a pilot program in five schools. The program, known as SanerSaferSchools, is designed to improve school climate, reduce suspensions, and increase equity for students of color.

School board members Tyler Murphy and Amy Green were also present to voice their support.

BUILD leaders strongly urged Mayor Linda Gorton to contract with the National Network for Safe Communities for Group Violence Intervention, a program that has proven successful in reducing gun violence in other cities. Although Mayor Gorton did not accede to BUILD’s demands, she did agree to meet with officials from the National Network for Safe Communities at an undetermined later date. Because gun violence in Lexington has continued to rise at an alarming rate, BUILD will re-double its efforts to work out an agreement between local officials and the National Network for Safe Communities. As concerned citizens, we must STOP THE VIOLENCE!

Congratulations and thanks to the 101 Newman Center parishioners and friends who participated in the Nehemiah Action this year. Your involvement is critical in making Lexington a better community for all of us. We extend special appreciation to the BUILD network members and team members for their dedicated work throughout the year.

Top 10 Reasons to Attend

  1. You want to obey God’s command to do justice. (Micah 6:8)
  2. You have faith in Jesus’ words, “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for justice.” (Matthew 5:6)
  3. You have always been touched by the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:29-37)
  4. You believe that everybody should have a safe and affordable place to live.
  5. You can see how critical it is for the mentally ill to have a stable living situation to ensure continuity of care.
  6. You want students of all races, ages, and backgrounds to be treated fairly and to have a positive school experience.
  7. You are appalled by the ever-increasing gun violence in Lexington and want the police to adopt an evidence-based program to reduce it.
  8. You recall Pope Paul VI’s words, “If you want peace, work for justice.”
  9. You agree with Pope Francis’ frequent emphasis on the need to help the poor and the marginalized.
  10. You want Holy Spirit Parish/Newman Center to be well represented at the largest gathering of concerned citizens in Lexington

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Campaign Updates

Youth/Education: Kids Belong In Schools

The Problem:

  • African American children are 3.8 times more likely to be suspended than white children. And Hispanic students are 1.4 times as likely to be suspended.
  • When a black student and a white student commit the same infraction, black students are more likely to receive harsher punishments.
  • High rates of suspension at the school level affect all students, not just the kids that are suspended.
  • Students who have been suspended or expelled are three times more likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system the following year than one who wasn’t. They are eventually more likely to be charged with a felony – this is known as the school to prison pipeline. Keeping kids in school sets them up for success later in life!

The Solution:

  • The International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) has a model of whole-school restorative practices called SaferSanerSchools
  • SaferSanerSchools builds stronger relationships between students and staff to create a more positive school climate and reduces discipline disparities based on race and other factors
  • IIRP sends instructors to your school to conduct professional development on site with everyone in the school including administrators, teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, etc so everyone receives training

The Action: BUILD will press the superintendent and school board to contract with IIRP to pilot the SaferSanerSchools model of whole school restorative practices in Fayette County Public Schools.

Mental Health / Housing: Healthy at Home

The Problem:

  • One in four families in Lexington cannot afford their rent and face impossible choices between paying rent and buying food or medicine.
  • People with serious mental illness in our community cycle between Eastern State Hospital, the jail, and homelessness without a stable place to call home.
  • In Kentucky, there are half as many low-income and supportive housing units as are needed.

The Solution:

  • Cities across the country are making housing a priority by linking affordable housing to a dedicated revenue source. This guarantees money for future years and attracts developers.
  • So far, 1,700 families have been housed and over $141 million have been leveraged in our community because of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund BUILD won in 2014. Our housing trust fund works, but it doesn’t go far enough.

The Action: BUILD was successful in 2014 in getting the affordable housing trust fund with $2 million in annual funding. This year, we will call on Mayor Gorton to increase funding and link it to dedicated revenue so it is guaranteed for years to come.

The Violence Must Stop!

The Problem:

  • Homicides: 10 deaths in 2021; 34 deaths in 2020; 30 deaths in 2019; 23 deaths in 2018; 28 deaths in 2017; 26 deaths in 2016; 16 deaths in 2015 – most of these are from shootings
  • According to the Gifford Law Center, the law enforcement and healthcare costs alone associated with a single gun-related homicide are $488,000, and more than $71,000 for each non-fatal shooting.
  • As violent crime persists, the relationship between law enforcement and the victimized communities can become strained. The VERA institute found that traditional policing methods in high crime neighborhoods erode the trust between community and law enforcement, putting them at risk for situations like Ferguson.

The Solution:

  • The National Network for Safe Communities helps cities implement the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) to reduce street group-involved homicides and gun violence.
  • This focused deterrence strategy allows community leaders, law enforcement and social service providers to intervene in the lives of at-risk individuals before they escalate to shooting, and offers the support they need to change their lifestyle
  • When New Haven, CT used this strategy they went from 34 homicides in 2011 to 7 in 2017; Oakland, CA went from 126 in 2012 to 74 in 2017. More than 80 cities are using the strategy including Cincinnati, OH; Detroit, MI; Pittsburg, PA; Chattanooga, TN; Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; New Orleans, LA; Wilmington, DE.

The Action: BUILD was successful in getting the mayor and county council to bring NNSC staff to Lexington for a problem analysis in January 2019. This year, we will press city leaders to enter into a contract with NNSC for a full implementation of GVI.

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Engaging Power: Preparing Ourselves for Responses from Powerful People

It is important, in preparing for an Action Assembly, to remember the differences between public relationships (how we act with officials and those in the public arena) and personal relationships (how we act with our friends and family). Unlike in personal relationships, which are based on love, trust, and emotions; in the public arena, we make commitments and hold each other accountable. We are not concerned about being liked; instead, we are concerned about getting something done. In public relationships, we are respectful and courteous, but we are also well organized and firm. At the Action, neither our spokespeople nor our public officials are there as individual community members. Our spokespeople are there to represent our whole ministry, and public officials are there to represent the offices they hold. When we ask for commitments from public officials, there are a few reactions we can expect. Below you will see a list of common responses we often hear when asking public officials for commitments to solve community problems.

Seven Common Reactions from Powerful People

Summary of “Roots to Power” by Lee Staples

  • Deflect: Focus organization away from them. Point us to another department or staff member. Try to tell us that we should be fixing the problem instead of them: “you all need to be tutoring/helping patrol the streets/volunteering more”
  • Divert: change the subject/issue. Avoid answering questions and just start talking about something else. Complain that they don’t like our tactics to divert attention away from the issue
  • Delay: Giving excuses (some may sound good and reasonable) for slowing down, changing deadlines, or setting endless meetings with no resolution (wear us down)
  • Deny: Official(s) refuse to meet (“too busy”, “not in”, “bad time”) or refuse any agreements
  • Deceive: Try to confuse us about public and personal so we won’t hold them accountable “we’re all in this together”. Or, Official(s) lead us to believe that something is being done (or will be); any lack of progress is explained away by “rules & regulations” and bureaucracy out of their control
  • Divide: Official(s) win over a few key leaders, provide symbolic concessions, or even offer special side deals; raise issues that will create internal division among groups (especially based on race, denomination, and geography), verbal attacks on staff (“you’re OK but your…is a problem”)
  • Discredit & destroy: Attack organization or leaders/members. Challenge organizational positions, facts, credibility, and goals in public, and/or in small meetings with strategic people.

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What is BUILD?

Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct Action (BUILD) is a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 community organization composed of 26 congregations in Fayette County, Kentucky. BUILD’s purpose is to powerfully address community problems in the greater Lexington area by creating a self-sustaining, interfaith, interracial, proactive organization.

The goals of BUILD are:

  • To develop a responsible organization to address local issues of concern to member congregations/groups, through a process of education, training, research and action.
  • To build and deepen relationships among diverse segments of our community by bringing together groups from various cultural, economic, and religious backgrounds around common interests.
  • To enable religious congregations and neighborhood groups to act on our shared values of human worth, dignity, and justice.

Why was BUILD created?

Micah 6:8 and Matthew 23:23 & 24 state that the Lord requires us “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (faithfulness).” At our congregations, we practice faithfulness through weekly worship, Bible Studies, and prayer. And we have a lot of ways to help individuals who are struggling, through mercy ministries like food pantries and clothing drives. But justice means holding systems accountable to solve the problems that affect thousands of people across our community. And we don’t do this as well as we do mercy and faithfulness, because doing justice is not something we can do alone. We need power to do justice—power in large numbers of organized people. BUILD was formed in 2003 to bring congregations together so that they would have enough power to do justice in the community of Lexington. Our vision is 52/1. 52 times a year we gather together to worship. Once a year, our average weekly worship attendance should come together at the Nehemiah Action to do justice.

How does BUILD decide what issues to work on?

BUILD develops its issues through a listening process. Leaders at our congregations host small group meetings with other members of the congregation to discuss their concerns for their family and friends and our community. As a result, hundreds of problems surface and are brought to the Community Problems Assembly in the fall. At this assembly, leaders vote on problems they consider to be the most urgent.

We then conduct four months of research on these top-voted problems and take appropriate action to solve them. Members of our congregations do research about the problems by meeting with experts and looking into solutions that have worked well in other places to solve the problems affecting our community.

How does BUILD take action on those problems?

BUILD addresses community problems using the biblical model provided in Nehemiah Chapter 5. When there was a severe famine in the land, the people of Jerusalem borrowed money to feed themselves and pay taxes. The money-lenders forced the people to mortgage their fields and even sell their children into slavery to repay their debt. This injustice angered Nehemiah, so he called all the people together for a great assembly, and he confronted the money-lenders with this injustice. When held accountable with the power of the great assembly, the money-lenders gave back all that they had confiscated. BUILD uses this same process to do justice in Lexington at the annual Nehemiah Action Assembly.

Members of BUILD’s congregations meet with public officials to present them with a reasonable, well-researched proposal, and invite them to the Nehemiah Action Assembly. At that Assembly, hundreds of people from the member congregations of BUILD participate in a face-to-face meeting with decision-makers and public officials, who are asked to make specific commitments for action. The 2019 Nehemiah Action Assembly was attended by 1,700 people. We didn’t gather in the same way in 2020 because of COVID-19 but we did have a socially-distant car rally and several virtual assemblies. This year we are planning for a Nehemiah Action on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 with both a socially distant drive in and virtual viewing option for over 2,000 people!

What has BUILD accomplished?

Since 2003, BUILD has made a real difference on a number of community problems:

Affordable Housing: In 2014, BUILD gained a commitment from Mayor Gray to develop a plan for and champion the passage of an Affordable Housing Fund with a dedicated funding source of 2 million dollars each year. This plan was approved by the city council and has created over 1,700 affordable homes so far!

Mental Healthcare: In 2017 and 2018, BUILD won continued funding for Mental Health Court so that people with severe mental illness get treatment, not jail. Because of BUILD, this program went from being a pilot program funded by short-term grants to instead be included in the city’s budget.
Drugs and Crime: BUILD won a Restorative Justice Program for youth who are using drugs and alcohol in our Family Court System. Three Family Court Judges, the Police Chief, the school system, the principal of our alternative school, and the Division of Youth Services were at our Nehemiah Action to commit to make this happen in Lexington.

Healthcare for the Uninsured: Due to the work of BUILD the Fayette County Health Department and other providers have supplied primary care to over 14,000 of Lexington’s over 40,000 uninsured adults. In 2011 alone, nearly $8 million of healthcare was provided to the uninsured in Lexington as a direct result of BUILD’s efforts.

Code Enforcement: Due to BUILD’s taking action in 2007, the Code Enforcement Division agreed to step up its inspections of trailer parks in Fayette county, some of which had rotting floor, leaking roofs, and open sewage.

Drug Treatment: BUILD discovered in 2006 that there was no drug treatment program for women in the Fayette County Jail, while the program for men was reducing the recidivism rate from 60% to 19%. BUILD got then-Mayor Teresa Isaac to put $175,000 in the budget each year for a women’s drug treatment program at the Fayette County Jail. To date, over 500 women have been treated through this program.

Public Transportation: BUILD got LexTran to start an “Employment Bus” which will take citizens to work during the hours the regular bus is not in service – this service began in August 2006.

Ex-Offender Re-entry: BUILD got the circuit court clerk and head of the detention center to develop a plan to ensure inmates have state issued photo ID’s upon their release.

Drug Court: In 2014, BUILD won top-notch training for judges and attorneys in Fayette County to help them identify eligible candidates for Drug Court. Because of this training, more people have gained access to treatment and this will save our city half a million dollars each year.

BUILD has followed up over the years to make sure that all of these commitments are met.

What congregations are part of BUILD?

There are currently 26 member congregations of BUILD. The co-chairs are Rev. Joseph Owens (Shiloh Baptist Church) and Fr. Dan Noll (Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary).

Bethsaida Baptist Church

Historic 2nd Christian Church

Second Presbyterian Church

Cathedral of Christ the King

Hunter Presbyterian Church

Shiloh Baptist Church

Central Christian Church

Lexington Friends Meeting

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church

Consolidated Baptist Church

Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary

St. Paul Catholic Church

East Second Street Christian Church

Maxwell Presbyterian Church

St. Peter Catholic Church

Faith Lutheran Church

Meadowthorpe Presbyterian Church

St. Peter Claver Catholic Church

First African Baptist Church

Newman Center/Holy Spirit Parish

St. Raphael Episcopal Church

Star of Bethlehem Pentecostal

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Open Door Church

Wesley United Methodist Church

Greater Liberty Baptist Church