Detroit Clergy Gathering: A Powerful voice for common problems

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 Lwanga Catholic Church) Charles Lwago Parish] 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 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 up with
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.
You might say DCG clergy leaders participated in …. (rather than hosted…in fact it was hosted by
Calvary) Most recently, the organization hosted “The Power of Peace Rally and Award Presentation” at
Calvary Presbyterian Church in Detroit, featuring Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, City Councilman James
Tate and Detroit Police Chief James Craig.
DCG will hold an August 27 Regional Clergy Dialogue at the Episcopal Diocese of Detroit, focusing on
how community organizing can benefit the congregation and the pastor’s ministry. Bishop Miles, co-
director of BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership) will be guest presenter. For information, call


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