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The Call

Vol. 19, Number 11

updated: June 10, 2019

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New partnership will help strengthen 5 black churches

By Annette Spence


ALCOA, Tenn. (June 5, 2019) -- What can we do to help our African-American churches become stronger?

With the help of a new initiative, five churches will soon be chosen to receive coaching and training needed to build up the black church in Holston Conference.

Holston has partnered with “Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century” (SBC21). A newly formed design team met May 21 in the Alcoa Conference Center. The meeting was led by the Rev. Fred Allen, national director.

“He talked to us about taking the pulse of the black church in Holston Conference – the presence or absence and what we think needs to happen,” said the Rev. Sharon Bowers, design team member.

Out of 872 congregations in Holston Conference, 20 are pre-dominantly African-American, Bowers said. About 25-26 pastors in Holston are African-American or African, out of about 1,000 Holston clergy.

SBC21 is a National Racial Ethnic Plan of The United Methodist Church. “We are dedicated to helping predominantly black congregations become effective and fruitful in mission and ministry,” according to the SBC21 website.

Holston Conference invested $20,000 to partner with SBC21 in an agreement approved by the Cabinet in April 2018, according to the Rev. Mike Sluder, director of connectional ministries.

After Holston’s design team identifies five congregations that could benefit from aid, the partnership will provide “tools, coaching, training, strategic planning, hope, inspiration, and encouragement to go forward with a fresh vision,” according to the agreement.

Holston’s SBC21 design team includes Bowers, the Rev. Karen Black, the Rev. Walter Cross, the Rev. Barbara Doyle, the Rev. Elston McLain, the Rev. Josh Swanson, and the Rev. Charlotte Williams.

“I hope that SBC21 can find a way to reach out to and hear groups of people who are often unheard,” said Swanson. “If we want our church to grow by reaching different demographics, we must find ways to reach out to these people.”

Find out more about Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century.