SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – When Springfield’s Race and Faith Collaborative celebrated its launch on the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech in Aug. 2013, it needed a vehicle to drive action toward its goal of unity in the community.

The leaders of the movement decided to start raceandfaith.com.

“The raceandfaith.com website was really born out of a movement if you will in the Springfield area to really come to understand better what the dynamics of race and race relations are all about and not just in Springfield,” said Mark Struckhoff, Executive Director of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks. “This is not really just a Springfield issue or question or dynamic.”

In 2012, a Smithsonian quality exhibit called “Race: Are we so Different?” came to the Discovery Center.

The exhibit looked at race from historical, contemporary and scientific perspectives. Hundreds of Springfieldians were given a survey asking them their understanding before and after seeing the exhibit. Before the grade was a D-, after a C-.

“One question in particular was — was race invented?” said Ken Coopwood, Missouri State University Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. “And many people tend to believe that race is just something that is part of our everyday life and the whole world is centered around and makes decisions based upon a person’s race.”

“Like any good teacher might tell me if I was not doing so good, if I was getting a D- in a class, a teacher might say to me, you’ve got a lot of room for improvement Mark,” Struckhoff said. “So this was kind of the approach we wanted to take just to say we’re all a work in progress.”

The personal challenge on raceandfaith.com lasts a year. In the first quarter, people are asked to examine themselves.

Then, they move on to friends and family, places of gathering and the wider community.

“We want to impart the visionary seed if you will into people,” Coopwood said. “We want them to develop a personal development process on their own and do that process intentionally.”

The first step, self-examination, is tedious and challenging, but it is arguably the most important.

“You have to know why you believe what you believe, what causes you to behave one way or another, and who were the sources of that information or what was the source of that information,” Coopwood said.

On raceandfaith.com, site visitors will find videos, readings and tasks to complete in each quarter.

The race and faith initiative has brought together congregations like Brentwood Christian Church on the south side of Springfield, and Washington Avenue Baptist, a predominantly black congregation on the north side. The churches have plans for joint worship services and fellowship events.

“Dr. King said years ago the most segregated time in America is 11 a.m. on Sunday morning, obviously referring to the churches,” said. Phil Snider, the pastor of Brentwood Christian Church. “The more we can work together, collaborate together, build partnerships together, the better off everyone is in Springfield.”

“Same beliefs, same God, same Christ, same holy spirit, we have more in common than not,” said Rev. Edward Alexander, the pastor at Washington Avenue Baptist. “But it’s just being able to come together and express that in our own way of worship and not be so judgmental or so critical of another person’s preference of worship.”

The race and faith collaborative involves the Council of Churches, but also the city and area colleges. Faith leaders say the website has plenty of resources for secular application.

“Whether we are religious or not, i think we can tend to agree that love transcends all boundaries, Snider said. “Whether religious or secular, that love calls us together.”

Faith leaders hope by taking the personal challenge, people in the Ozarks will learn to live as one people.