By Aswad Walker
One often-heard critique of the Black Church is you can find one on every corner in “the hood,” yet little-to-nothing changes. Though that criticism is an oversimplification, as there are faith institutions providing various levels of service to the community, it does speak to the lack of collaboration between churches. There is now an effort to bring congregations out of their individual silos so they can connect with others, and together offer services and programs that can meet more needs of more people.
That effort, aptly named “Community Connect,” is the brainchild of Dr. Willie Mae Lewis, founder and director of the Women’s Resource Center.
“Community Connect is all about creating a network of care so that the institutions and leaders our people most trust, support and listen to—the faith institutions and their pastors—can lead the way in answering the call to heal our people,” said Lewis.
The idea behind Community Connect traces its roots back to the ancient African saying, “I am because we are,” a concept that emphasizes that a group working together on one accord is stronger than the sum of its parts.
“We bring faith communities together and ask them to share with us what it is they do best, what is it that their congregations offer by way of services and programs. One church may have a strong food pantry program, while another may have a strong health ministry. Still, another may offer after-school or STEM workshops for youth. By bringing all these congregations and all these services together under one tent, our community can then receive the services they need. And the cherry on top—those services are provided by us for us,” said Lewis.
“This holy collaboration also does much to break down walls between congregations, because I now have a bevy of other congregations to send my members to if those other congregations are better equipped to provide the services my members may need. And the converse is true, as well, Those other pastors can send their members to my doors for services we specialize in,” said Dr. Corey Wilson, the bishop and pastor of Christian Faith Missionary Baptist Church.
“I fully believe we are honoring our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through this collaborative work that we’re doing,” added Wilson.
“This kind of collaboration is long overdue, but it’s here now, and that’s a blessing. And we’re growing in number by the day,” said Lewis.
Community Connect currently has 10 participating congregations, though Lewis and Wilson expect that number to triple by the end of the year, especially with the holiday season approaching—a period known for highlighting community members in need.
Some of the current Community Connect member congregations include Trinity United Methodist Church (UMC), Trinity East UMC, Evangelist Chapel AME, the Shrine of the Black Madonna, Riverside UMC, St. Mary’s UMC and Boynton Chapel UMC.
We are more than ready to expand our participating members, because that means not only will we be able to offer more services, more people will be able to have their mind, body and spirit needs met,” said Lewis.