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