Black Churches Are Turning to Evangelism and Millennials to Revitalize Churches

The pews and the choir loft are full at Alfred Street Baptist Church, an historic, predominantly black congregation in Alexandria, Va., on July 26, 2015. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

With love and a dedicated work ethic to improve the community, Tasker Street Missionary Baptist Church focuses on changing the lives of people who worship in its four walls as well as those that do not.

At 142-years-old, the church has used this genuine care for people to remain an effective church, while withstanding a gentrifying neighborhood and the gradual dying off of dedicated elders.

“My vision is that Tasker Street Missionary Baptist Church would fulfill Christ’s command to make disciples in the world,” said Senior Pastor the Rev. James A Lovett. “There are about 34 ministries at Tasker Street Missionary Baptist Church that help us to do that. Some focus on Christian education like the Dynamic Senior Citizen’s Bible Study and Vacation Bible School; some focus on holistic personal and spiritual development like the Women’s Ministry, BADEAYA (Beating and Defeating the Enemy’s Attack on our Young Adults) and New Members Ministry; some focus on community outreach like the monthly Nursing Home Ministry and Evangelism Team; and others focus on the edification of the members in worship like Tasker’s Tots of Praise, Tasker’s Ministers Through Mime and various choirs.”

Internationally, the church has also participated in mission projects spreading the Gospel to Haiti, Peru and parts of Africa. Currently, they financially support “two full-time missionary families — Gary and Karen Shogren who serve with World Venture in Costa Rica, and Paulette Thomas who serves with Cru in France. “

In its immediate neighborhood, Tasker’s Community Outreach Corporation (COC) addresses social needs. On certain days and by appointment, people from the community can come in for help with job searches and resume building. The COC also offers an after-school program that provides mentoring and academic help to students.

And even though Lovett commented that “I know there is always more we can do,” Tasker is in the midst of growing its prison ministry.

The Rev. Dr. Kimberlee Johnson, who is serving as interim pastor, said for the past four years the prison ministry has ministered to inmates serving life sentences at Graterford. Through a partnership with other organizations, they plan to expand their reach and wrap around the issue of mass incarceration by educating the community on the justice system. Johnson said last June, rather than hosting a revival, the church kicked off this effort with a weeklong “Reconcile, Recover, Restore, Reentry” conference that explored trauma, unemployment and other issues impacted or caused by incarceration.

On Presidents Day, the church and the COC hosted a free legal workshop in partnership with the Defenders Association of Philadelphia and Eastern University. The workshop was open to the community and answered any questions individuals had about their specific legal issues. Eventually, Tasker Street plans to host such workshops every month.

“We have members of our church who are returning citizens and members of the church who are victims of crime and they worship right next to each other,” said Johnson. “And we decided we need to take that Band-Aid off and have a conversation. We are planning to have [workshops] here every month so people in the neighborhood who need free legal services can actually get it.”

Across several generations, Tasker Street’s members admire how the church has cared for its own throughout its history.

“Tasker Street is a giving church,” said Mrs. Idella Hamm, 89, a member for 77 years. “I’ve seen things they’ve done for people … They would just help anybody.” Hamm added that “even through trials and tribulations,” the church has been able to work together.

Linda Tribune, a member for 15 years, teared up as she shared the experience of having to deal with the death of her husband.

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Source: Philadelphia Tribune | Samaria Bailey

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