Four African-American ministers
described what they believed the role of the church should be at a Saturday forum at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center. With Dr. Larry Murphy of Garrett-Evangelical Seminary on the Northwestern campus serving as moderator, the panelists told their experiences leading parishioners in Evanston. Carliss Moody of Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, Brenda Little of Bethany Baptist Church, Gessell Berry of Sherman Avenue United Methodist Church, and Kamasi Hill – a doctoral student at Garrett – agreed that the mission of a church can be expanded within its walls and extended beyond them.

Bishop Moody said, “If you just stay inside the walls of a church, you’re just making noise.”

Dr. Little agreed, saying, “A church is not an institution that exists unto itself; it has a mandate and a mission to affect the community, the state and even the world. The pastor’s job is to equip the saints
[the faithful] to affect the world.”

Rev. Berry said he felt the mission “of my church is hope, and, as John Wesley [the founder of Methodism] said, ‘The world is my parish.’… The black pulpit can be the freest place in the world.”

The ministers also agreed that today’s youth, particularly African-American males, are in danger of being lost.

Mr. Hill, who teaches at Evanston Township High School, said, “ETHS still does not know what to do with African-American males. It has no clue how to address the issues of this generation, and that’s been going on for years.”

He continued, “We can give these children a sense of vocation. … If we invest in our young people so they understand who they are, they will be connected to the transcendent reality of who they should become. … I tell my students, ‘You are competing against everybody else in the world. You have to understand who you are and whose you are.”

Bishop Moody said, “We have to get the parents back to being really involved in their children’s lives. … You have to demand that [involvement] by the way you live. … At home you have to live the way you want your children to live. Your children will respect rules, respect authority. If you have none, they will have nothing to respect.”

From the audience, Second Ward Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, added, “I think we have to walk the talk. … Dr. King talked to power, asking the church to come out of the church and help the community fight the fight.”

Dr. Murphy said, “The challenge is there, and the church is strong enough to receive the challenge.”