We are working to develop leaders like:
Heber Brown, III is an organizer, activist, writer, and the Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.
A third generation Baptist preacher, Heber’s five years of leadership at Pleasant Hope have been a time of remarkable growth in the congregation coupled with what he calls “a propensity for risk-taking.”
About the growth of Pleasant Hope he says:
“Over the past five years, the church has done everything from providing platforms for Palestinians to discuss the occupation of Palestine, to conducting HIV/AIDS testing in the sanctuary during Sunday worship, to organizing Pan African forums, launching police monitoring initiatives, starting a garden to feed the community, and hosting currently and formerly incarcerated political prisoners.”
The highlight of Heber’s organizing and activism has been the successful campaign to halt the construction of a multi-million dollar youth jail in East Baltimore. “I became recognized,” he says, “as the most consistent clergy voice at the frontline of the fight against the Prison Industrial Complex.”
As a part of the Stop The Youth Jail campaign, the church hosted Freedom Schools. Harkening back to the Freedom Schools of the 1960s Civil Rights movement, Heber led Pleasant Hope in hosting weekly summer sessions where residents of the city could come to the church to learn together, share stories, and plan future actions against the jail.
During these Freedom Schools, Heber began to re-imagine transforming the traditional Sunday School into a Freedom School. Heber is developing a participatory curriculum for historically African American congregations that orient Black youth to the world through an understanding of their culture and their faith as viewed through the lenses of liberation theology.
About this project he says:
“Churches across the country struggle with providing relevant Sunday School programming that inspires youth to find their place in the world and be inspired by a radical gospel that invites them to help change it for the better while being transformed themselves along The Way. What if Sunday Schools were transformed into ‘60s-style Freedom Schools designed to groom the next generation of world-changers whose activism is fueled by their faith? These Freedom Schools can be the seedbeds for the next generation of organizers and activists who learn how to courageously live out the implications of the radical gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Heber is a graduate of Virginia Union University and is currently completing his Doctorate of Ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chris Craun is the Rector of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon.
In this parish of 700 that is two-thirds Anglo and one-third Latino, she is creating a new ministry called the Center for Immigrant Welcoming.
Chris describes the center as a place that facilitates three things: "a trusting place for people to share their stories to deepen the relationships between Latino and Anglo communities at St. Michael’s; a place where we will work together with local immigrant justice groups to offer education forums on immigration-related issues to the public; and, a place to offer advocacy and accompaniment to individuals and families facing immigration-related issues by offering tangible support (e.g. legal advice, financial assistance, prayers, transportation, meals). The center will work in collaboration with an ecumenical faith leaders group within the larger Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, our Diocesan Latino Missioner and four other Episcopal churches in the area that are seeking to serve the Latino communities in Portland."
About the launching of The Center for Immigrant Welcoming she says:
“I was in a courtroom with hundreds of others in support of a member of our parish who was facing deportation. She had been silent about her immigration status. When her family faced deportation, however, she asked for help. The judge had never seen such an outpouring of support and ruled in favor of letting the family stay – a very rare decision. The people in that courtroom witnessed something profound. The idea for this project quite literally came from a place of deep gladness – the gladness that was experienced when we were part of someone’s journey. We realized how many others need that same kind of support and saw how a collaborative effort can make that possible.”
Chris received her BA from the University of California at San Diego in 2002, her Certificate of Theological Studies with a focus on Youth Ministry from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, and her Masters of Divinity from General Theological Seminary in New York. She loves the adventure of team training for relay races across the Pacific Northwest.
Neichelle Guidry Jones
Neichelle Guidry Jones is Associate Pastor to Young Adults at Trinity United Church of Christ on the south side of Chicago, and the founder of ShePreaches.com, an online magazine for young African-American women in ministry.
About ShePreaches, Neichelle says:
“Through this project, I hope to enourage more young women of color to accept their calls to ministry. In the past few years of professional ministry, I have often been the only young woman in most of my professional circle. On the other hand, I’ve met several young women who have decided to forego ministry until later in life for a variety of reasons. So my dream is to embolden young women to be leaders, to dispel fears and to provide practical resources for their success in ministry.”
Niechelle is focused on the pulpit as a platform for social change:
“I believe that it is time for the Church to raise a voice of indignation on issues pertaining to the lives, dignity and personhood of women. Despite the “platforms” to which we’ve been granted access and the ones we have not, the Church has always had our pulpits as “platforms” of prophetic disruption. Preaching is very powerful for awareness-raising and consciousness-building.”
“I am particularly interested in identifying and equipping young women of color. My spirit weeps at all of the images and narratives that attempt to convince my sisters and I that we are destined for desperation, poverty and pain. This message is in the media, and many national and local policies seek to make this message a perpetual reality. But I know that there is a different path because I’m walking in it now. I need more sisters on this path with me.”
She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and Yale Divinity School.
Immediately following her graduation from Yale, Neichelle became one of the youngest women to be ordained an Elder in the Kingdom Council of Interdependent Christian Churches and Ministries, an international Protestant reformation founded by Bishop David M. Copeland.
As a Fund for Theological Education Doctoral Fellow, Neichelle is a Doctor of Philosophy student in Liturgical Studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.
Alison is the pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ. Originally founded as a mission to the Tohono O’odham in 1906, Southside is a multi-cultural congregation with a history of community involvement.
About this history, Alison says:
"For generations, the people of Southside Presbyterian Church have sought to create a place of hospitality in a world of hostility and a voice for justice in a world of injustice. Whether it was organizing to end to segregation in the 1960’s, for affordable housing in the 1970’s, or as the founding congregation of the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980’s, members of Southside have taken seriously the mandate of the gospel to serve the least of these. Faithful to the legacy of Sanctuary, Southside currently runs three social justice ministries: Cross Street Ministries, which serves the homeless, the Southside Worker Center which provides a space for day laborers to negotiate just wages and to become leaders in the community, and Samaritans a humanitarian aid organization working to end the deaths in our desert. Located 60 miles from the border and in a working-class, Latino barrio, Southside has found itself in the midst of the humanitarian crisis created by anti-migrant sentiments and legislation, and has once again responded by living out an ethic of radical hospitality."
Alison graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, where she was a Haas Scholar and earned a Bachelor's degree in Peace and Conflict Studies with an emphasis in U. S. Race Relations. After graduation, she worked in the San Francisco Bay Area organizing around issues such as the prison industrial complex and the criminalization of youth of color. Seeking to approach issues of social justice from a faith perspective she attended San Francisco Theological Seminary, where she was a Presidential Scholar. While attending SFTS she began to volunteer at San Quentin State Prison where she worked with the San Quentin Giants Baseball Team and in the Protestant Chapel leading Bible Studies and teaching theology. Alison has served the Presbyterian Church (USA) as a Global Youth Intern in 1994 to Ethiopia, a Young Adult Volunteer to Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1996, and has traveled on peace and justice delegations to Chiapas, Colombia, and Cuba. In 2010 she was named one of Tucson’s 40 under 40 and in 2011 she was awarded the Beatitudes Society's Brave Preacher Award.
About the ministry of Southside Presbyterian Church, she says:
“In a time of militarized borders, deaths in our desert, and family separation due to detention and deportations, we are seeking to not only be a voice of hospitality and justice but a body of hospitality and justice as we seek to put our faith into action. As a people of faith who worship every week in the barrio we can no longer stand by and watch families torn apart by poverty and by unjust immigration policies. By working with residents of our barrio we are hoping to build a Barrio de Promesa where neighbors no longer live in fear but are mobilized and organized to make real and lasting change in their communities.”
Karen Rohrer is the Pastor and Co-Director of Beacon, a new church development of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA.
She is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, the Pastoral Immersion Program of Broad Street Ministry and Arch Street Presbyterian Church, and a member of the Philadelphia Presbytery.
Karen has pursued ministry because she is interested in knowing people and walking with them as they grow in the freedom, boldness, wholeness, and generosity for which God has made them. In her education and in her vocation, she has been on the look out for ways to do that. She reports that her work has consisted in "discovering, searching for, and in some ways cobbling together what it means to be a pastor in a society that isn’t entirely sure it needs pastors."
Through what she names as "spectacular landings and colorful missteps," Karen reports finding a generous community in the midst of the grit of the city, the revelation of God in the faces of people she would never have known otherwise, and a path to be a pastor and faith leader in a world that struggles to have faith.
About Beacon, Karen says:
“Beacon is a new faith community in a post-industrial, historically secluded, and generally forgotten neighborhood of Philadelphia. In a neighborhood littered with empty churches, the message that a church is invested in individual and community wholeness is one that must be preached as part of the good news. In a neighborhood with failing schools and few safe family spaces, there can be no secure common good and there can be no lasting justice without the healing and restoration of the children, families, and the neighborhood divisions born of domestic violence, substance abuse, poor health, joblessness, and poverty.”
Beacon’s governing truth is that God remembers all God’s children, not only that God dwells with them when others have forgotten, but that God also re-members them, bringing their broken pieces together, both individually and communally.
"Our dream for Beacon, then, is that as a church, we would participate in God’s remembering and re-membering of individuals in the neighborhood as well the diverse community surrounding the church as a whole. We want to bring mental and social health into the conversation of faith in an underserved community, expanding our continuum of care for those we currently serve, giving us voice to address the demons of our day, and making our community and building a healing space for those who have few if any safe spaces in their lives.”
Beacon’s stated mission as a church and community gathering space is to “grow together through arts, learning, and faith.”
Beacon’s mission has grown from its rootedness in the neighborhood and the understanding that the church is an incarnational and contextual witness to the God who loves Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood--as Karen puts it "the God who is pleased to dwell with God’s children there, who remembers them, hears their voices, and knows their joys and struggles."
Anthony Sandusky is the Pastor-in-Residence at the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY, where he leads The Underground, a new multicultural Church movement.
Anthony describes The Underground as an “organic faith movement focused on personal and communal transformation. The world's greatest need is to encounter churches passionate about personal AND communal transformation; churches devoted to being spirit-filled AND justice-oriented."
“This movement encourages people to move beyond the four walls of the church to dwell with our neighbors throughout our community. We are meeting in local restaurants, jazz clubs, coffee shops and other businesses throughout central Brooklyn. We are welcoming the stranger and providing Real Community, Real Talk, and Real SOUL Music.”
“My call is to multicultural ministry that is intentional about discerning ways of bringing people and groups together,” Anthony says. The value of community was ingrained in Anthony at an early age in Lexington, Kentucky. “I was raised by a village,” he says. “I was reared by a single mother along with a host of other relatives. I have a village mentality: I embrace and celebrate unity amidst diversity.”
Anthony’s vision for ministry is grounded in the words and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While a seminarian at Vanderbilt University, Anthony focused his academic research on Dr. King, particularly King’s discussion of the World House and Beloved Community. Anthony also served as teaching assistant for undergraduate courses at Vanderbilt University on southern religion and culture. His research on race, religion, and culture has taken him to the Martin Luther King Papers Project at Stanford University, to England where he researched transatlantic slavery’s effects on the residents of Bristol, as well as into the prison systems of Tennessee and Louisiana.
In 2005, Anthony was licensed to preach at Mount Gilead Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Anthony was ordained in 2012 at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Anthony holds degrees from American Baptist College and Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
"Five years from now, I envision a vibrant, humming community that has built substantive relationships in our neighborhood and is deeply involved in healing and justice work that has emerged from those relationships. I imagine a place that is known in the neighborhood for being queer-friendly, outlandishly experimental, and genuinely warm."