Jonathan Banks, elder of the Apostolic Faith Church (left) explains their programs addressing community needs to Lake Region pastors Leon Bryant, New Life Church, and Adult Ministries Director for Lake Region Conference; Robert Best, Straford Memorial Church; Marlon Gregory, Hyde Park Church; Michael Horton, Emmanuel Church and Ministerial Director for Lake Region Conference.
Lake Region—A group of Chicago pastors met with community faith leaders to develop an action plan for addressing social ills plaguing the community, including ways to curb the city’s intractable gun violence.
The group of pastors engaged in a listening session with three prominent faith leaders who are at the forefront of calling attention to problems in Chicago. One issue on everyone’s radar: The crime stats. In 2018, almost 3,000 people were shot in the city resulting in 600 homicides, according to Chicago Police Department figures.
Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church, the city’s largest African-American Catholic congregation and well-known for logging thousands of protest marches fueled by a furor over inequity, social justice and gun violence offered a unique perspective. Edward Woods III, Lake Region Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Director said the group was impressed by Pfleger’s servant leadership and willingness to “roll his sleeves up and get in involved in the community. In fact,” said Woods, “Pfleger told us: ‘I’m the pastor of the community. Everyone that lives in the community is my member. The people on the church rolls are enlisted soldiers.’”
At Trinity United Church of Christ, Darryl Brown, director of Multi-media Communications and Rev. Rochelle Michael, director of Pastoral Services, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, told the group how they effectively developed a curriculum galvanized around the message of love and justice. Trinity United Church, said Woods, has a wide range of ministries and services such as a film festival and a printing press publishing material for their various ministry needs. Moss also uses the Bible to instruct the 8,500 -member congregation on social justice issues.
When the group met with Jonathan Banks, elder of the Apostolic Faith Church under the leadership of Bishop Horace Smith, M.D., Banks reinforced the need for collaboration. Their congregation works with the faith-based group “Together Chicago” to address social justice and better access of resources.
The meetings provided a boost for the pastors who, according to Woods, were “amazed at the intentionality and practical relevance in providing members with ministry options to address social ills.”
Last year, Lake Region pastors embarked on a mission to engage in social issues affecting their communities. In Aug. 2018, they met with the City of Chicago Police Department. A few months later, they convened a panel of young adults to hear their perspectives and see where they were willing to help. Several young adults agreed to serve as mentors.
The next step is the preparation of an action plan to present at a Chicago Mayoral Candidate Forum on March 22, focusing on religious liberty and community engagement.
Pastors in attendance:
Marlon Gregory, Hyde Park Seventh-day Adventist Church
William J. Lee, Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church and Men’s Ministry Director for Lake Region Conference
Robert Best, Straford Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church
Leon Bryant, New Life Seventh-day Adventist Church, and Adult Ministries Director for Lake Region Conference
Michael Horton, Emmanuel Church and Ministerial Director for Lake Region Conference
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Debbie Michel, Lake Union Conference associate director of Communication