When the word green is mentioned in contemporary circles, many of us think organic … although the more cynical among us may think grass. But there is much to be said about green or organic movements. Case in point; the Detroit Clergy Gathering, a coalition of clergy, congregations and social advocates working to build just, equal and equitable communities.
And while the tried and proven success of organic or grass root movements in the past have resulted in historic societal changes orchestrated by non-political groups, i.e. unionization, voter registration, civil rights and community development, this group of religious leaders is addressing some of the most complex and volatile issues in Southeast Michigan.
Rev. Barbara Kelley, former senior pastor of the People’s Community Church and a founding member of DCG, says the organization’s list of quality of life issues facing residents of the region is expansive, but achievable. “[We’ll tackle] civilian oversight of law enforcement, public transportation and the [lack of] job readiness programs available to our communities.”
So when a group of local religious leaders formed the Detroit Clergy Gathering, determined to return to the practice of grass roots organizing and inspire others to effect change from the bottom up, a number of metropolitan Detroit clergy and some laymen relished the opportunity and set about the work of putting the plan to action.
“The Detroit Clergy gathering started back in July of 2013, when Rev. Kevin Turman [Second Baptist Church] and Father Ted Parker [St. Charles Lwango Church] put out a call to clergy inviting them to explore the creation of congregation based organizing in Detroit. … Some liked the idea and some didn’t, so we spent the next year and a half identifying people who understood what it really takes to build an organization,” explains Bill O’Brien, a 35-year veteran of community organizing and the co-founder, along with Rev. Turman, of the Harriet Tubman Center in Detroit.
During the same period, a similar organization with a shared vision was forming in the Detroit suburbs, the Metro Coalition of Congregations. “There were 10 churches in the suburbs who wanted to get hooked up with the Detroit effort,” continued O’Brien, “so now, under the DCG banner we have nine suburban congregations and about 25 Detroit congregations involved in the project.”
The result of this historic clergy collaborative has been a geographically and racially diverse coalition of churches and clergy to fight political apathy and social inertia.
In March DCG commemorated the anniversary of the March at Selma with hundreds of congregants and supporters from the Detroit metropolitan area. “The theme of the event was recapturing the Selma Spirit for Greater Detroit … [and] by all standards it was a successful event, “said Rev. Kelley.
Most recently, DCG leaders participated in “The Power of Peace Rally and Award Presentation” hosted by Calvary Presbyterian Church in Detroit. Featured speakers included Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, City Councilman James Tate and Detroit Police Chief James Craig.
DCG will host an Aug. 27 Regional Clergy Dialogue at the Episcopal Diocese of Detroit, to focus on how community organizing can benefit congregations and pastoral ministries. Bishop Miles, co-director of Baltimoreans United in Leadership will be the guest speaker
For more information visit www.tubmanorganizing or call 313-285-9710.