Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Saint John, Washington, DC Beyond the Walls

By Rodney Hudson, Associate Minister at Saint John. In a time when many churches in the District of Columbia are withdrawing from the crowded inner-city to the proverbial greener pastures of Maryland and Virginia suburbs, Saint John Christian Methodist Episcopal Church has been standing tall for over 131 years as one of the pillars of the Stanton Road community. It has ignored the courting of developers who have pocketed millions of dollars from the sale of plush condominiums on once owned church property. For many African Americans, this land symbolized more than the resourcefulness of sainted church mothers and fathers, but it was a vital life-link to lost time and a recreated cultural identity that united African and American cultures into one distinct ethnicity. Saint John is one of six CME Churches in the District of Columbia fighting on the frontlines of a societal battlefield where African American youth are seemingly hypnotized by the violence and sexual-laden beats of Gangster Rap. Many of our young have simply followed these gangster moguls of hip-hop down a destructive path of violence and drug-addiction.
Drs. Wardell and Bester Bonner, pastor and first lady of the Saint John CME Church, have been laboring together in the pastorate for over 30 years with six of those years in service at the friendly Stanton Road congregation. Pastor Bonner, himself serving in the preaching ministry for over 49 years, knows all too well the moral destruction that follows when congregations detach themselves from their local school systems and city councils. Pastor Bonner believes that the true battle lines in the Stanton Road community are not drawn across multi-million dollar places of worship or colorful stained glass windows. The true war is raging deep in the hearts of suffering people whose children are enlisted by drug kingpins to sell crack-cocaine. The battle is raging in the hearts and minds of people who are growing weary of the failing social services programs that leave the homeless outside to die in cardboard boxes.
If Saint John was going to be an agent of change in the community, it needed a place of convergence where residents could learn important life skills and hear the Gospel message in a non-confrontational way. This meant that Saint John would have to think “outside-of-the box” to win over some of her hip-hop obsessed youth. These young people lived just doorstops away from their middle class neighbors who reside in the newly constructed condominiums across the street from the church.
God knew exactly what Saint John needed. On Sunday October 16, 2005, Dr. H. Patricia Jones, Presiding Elder of the Washington-Virginia District, along with the Saint John’s Boys and Girls Scouts led a processional of worshippers to the church’s newly acquired community center for a dedication ceremony. The center is adjacent to the church’s educational complex. Soon after renovations were completed, the church commissioned a study to examine the demographics, educational levels, and needs of the residence of the Stanton Road community. The study identified strategic areas of need for which committees were organized to address. Dr. Bester Bonner, who recently retired as the Director of Library Media Services for the District of Columbia Public Schools, graciously accepted the challenge of serving as the Director of the community center. Dr. Bonner wasted no time in using her professional training in education and her skills as an educational administrator in public schools and institutions of higher education environments to prepare a yearlong evangelism curriculum. The curriculum focuses on providing clergy and laypersons alike with cutting edge evangelistic strategies. Many of the volunteers working in the various committees at the community center are social workers, teachers, and lawyers who employ the same skills that they use on their secular jobs to assist those who come to the center for help.
During the summer months of June through September, six African American teens had been murdered in the community. The escalating murder rate in the District led the City government to declare a crime emergency. Enough was enough. Pastor Bonner began to cry out even louder and preach against the murders, prostitution, and illegal drug deals that were taking place in the neighborhood. One could sense the righteous indignation that was tempered with Christian love from each word that spoke truth to power. In the mist of a heat advisory and a crime emergency, Reverend Bonner charged the members of the church with the awesome responsibility of being God’s agents of change. Through the sermon, “Being at the Right Place at the Right Time,” He shared the vision that it was time to march around the community as a symbol of God’s conquest in the community. He challenged the church to consider and meditate on the meaning of the Quadrennial Theme, From Good to Great: The Jesus challenge. He preached, “If the drug dealers and prostitutes won’t come to us, then we’ll take the gospel to them.” Reverend Bonner selected a team of local preachers and laypersons to organize an effort that would be evangelistic, inform the community about the Fall Revival, and offer information on the activities at the new Community Center. These volunteers embraced the pastor’s vision and organized the Jericho March and Parade. The Jericho March would take place on Wednesday, September 6, 2006 and the Jericho parade was scheduled for Saturday, September 9, 2006.
(See the November issue of The Christian Index for the completion of this ariticle.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”- Colossians 3:15
During this period of war and strife in distant lands, whose devastating effects can be felt daily right here at home, it seems peace is hard to find. Yet Paul reminds us in these verses that, as members of the Body of Christ, we have the responsibility to bring peace into the world. We are to be brokers of peace! "And be thankful," Paul says. Peace coupled with thanksgiving. What a wonderful combination for times such as these! Happy Thanksgiving. - KEJones

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

St. John CME, Akron, Ohio Kicks Off Ministry to Men
(This article will appear in an upcoming issue of The Christian Index.) “One Hundred Men in Black” was the theme on Black Male Awareness Day on Sunday October 29th at St. John CME, where Rev. Arthur S. Green is the pastor. The worship service was inspiring, and over 100 men were in attendance.
Mr. Robert Jones, Jr., lay leader of the church, served as the worship leader, with many of the men participating in leading the worship. The music was rendered by the St. John Male Chorus, and the Arlington Church of God Male Choir.
Pastor Green spoke from the subject, "A Hair Cut at the Wrong Barbershop." His message was centered on the life of Samson and he stressed how important it is for men to be the wonderful men that God created. Pastor Green said, "When there are more women than men in worship on Sunday, we are getting our hair cut at the wrong barber shop. When the emergency cards at our schools list the mother and say 'father unknown,' it is a hair cut at the wrong barber shop." He encouraged the men to be proud of who they are, to cherish their heritage and trust God in all things.
Mr. Russell Neal, Ronald Shaw and Alexander Cagle, outstanding men in the Akron community, were honored during the service. Over a period of 12 years, some 100 men in the Akron community have been honored by the church for their dedication and commitment. Mr. Anthony Corbin, who is the director of the Ministry to Men at St. John, said, "It is our goal to meet the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of our men so we can serve God, our families and the community in a more excellent and powerful way." It was a powerful day and a wonderful way to kick off our ministry to men.

Reported by Thelma Bronner

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The funeral arrangement for Rev. Dr. L.L. Barnes is scheduled for Monday, November 13th at 11 AM at Martin Temple Memorial CME Church, 65 South Parkway, West, Memphis, TN 38109 (901) 946-0097. Reverend Louis T. Purham is the pastor. Viewing is at 10 AM.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Passing of Rev. L.L. Barnes We are saddened to learn of the home going this morning of Rev. L. L. Barnes of Memphis, TN (former pastor of Mt. Pisgah CME, Memphis and Carter Temple CME Chicago). He was 93. Mrs. Lucille Barnes may be reached at 1488 Kansas Street, Memphis, TN 38109-1619 (901) 948-8543.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shots from the 5th Episcopal District Ministers and Spouses Retreat, Panama City (Laguna Beach), Florida, Oct. 27-29, 2006

Rev. Oscar Massey, Rev. Mildred Mitchell and
Rev. and Mrs. Bernard Johnson.

Mrs. Frances Jones and Rev. and Mrs. Ore
Spragin enjoy chilly walk on the beach.

Mrs. Wendy Reddick and Rev. John Walker
celebrate dual birthdays.

Rev. and Mrs. Richard McDuffie relax with
a game of Spades.

Editor Jones turns the camera on himself.