THUMBNAIL SKETCHES, FOUR ATLANTA CONGREGATIONS FEATURED IN CBS-TV SPECIAL
Ebenezer Baptist Church
407 Auburn Avenue, NE
Atlanta, GA 30312
Approximately 1,500 - 2,000 members
Micah 6 Contact:
The Rev. James Victor, Associate Pastor
"If more congregations mobilized around Micah 6, then I think the church will begin to demonstrate its integrity--not be a sideline player but a real champion of causes that affect the lives of people," says the Rev. James Victor. Taken seriously, Micah 6 compels congregations "to make faith a public matter, not a private matter, something lived out among people," he says.
The Rev. Victor notes that the principles of Micah 6 "were already at the core of our self-understanding" when Ebenezer Baptist Church was introduced to the Micah 6 program. Ebenezer takes a seamless approach to justice, service and spirituality, he says. Therefore, the congregation did not have to do the theological and practical "legwork," as others have done.
"But what the program has done," he says, "is to put us in touch with a system, a network of others seeking to do the kinds of things that we do."
He cites one memorable incident that occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd, which devastated areas of the Southeast, including around Charlotte, N.C. Residents of Princeville and other predominantly African American communities in the area felt neglected by relief agencies, the Rev. Victor says. But the Micah 6 connection helped out in at least one case, when Ebenezer partnered with Friendship Baptist Church in Charlotte to get relief supplies to residents in need.
First African Methodist Episcopal Church
2046 Richard Allen Lane SE
Atlanta, GA 30316
Approximately 600 members
Micah 6 Contact:
The Rev. Dr. Earl McCloud, Pastor
"It may be too early to tell, but I think that the Micah 6 program will help with new member retention," according to the Rev. Dr. Earl McCloud. "Statistical data shows that the sooner new members connect with programs, the better the chances they will stay with the church," he says, pointing out that Micah 6 helps make that link.
To illustrate, the Rev. McCloud describes a recent series of Bible studies around the Micah 6 themes that he conducted himself. As homework, participants in the study employed their new appreciation of Micah 6 to develop essays about the programmatic aspects of First AME, each participant choosing from a list of the church's many programs. "Over the last three or four weeks, we have been sharing their statements," he says. "They are more aware of the different areas of work. They see how they are connected and it increases member participation in ministry."
With the greater emphasis on Micah 6, "People are thinking about what the Lord requires of them," the Rev. McCloud notes. "There has been more of a focus on God's purpose in their lives."
First Presbyterian Church
1328 Peachtree Street, NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
Approximately 2,700 members
Micah 6 Contact:
The Rev. Charles Black, Associate Pastor for Community Ministries
After a very focused two-year effort guided by a steering committee, the Micah 6 program "has impacted every aspect of ministry" and "has been healthy for us," reports the Rev. Charles Black.
"The genius of Micah 6 is its holistic approach," he says. At the organizational level, "we find a way to interface around what we've trying to do, rather than having various compartments. Micah 6 is in the educational curriculum, the Care Council, the Community Council, the Mission Council . We come together around a common table and support each other's efforts."
And within each program, Micah 6 weaves together the themes of justice, kindness and a deeper spirituality. For instance, "when we do direct service, we are more intentional about the related public policy aspect," the Rev. Black says. In a recent example, a long-running program for art therapy at First Presbyterian moved beyond direct service to clients, by participating in a June 11 event in Washington, D.C., to educate members of Congress about the benefits of art therapy and the need for services in Georgia.
As similar spirit pervades the congregation's mission trips abroad, support of AIDS/HIV services, and such programs as Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.
That the Micah 6 program has a deep spiritual dimension became especially evident during Lent 2001, the Rev. Black notes. "Previously, we used ready-made Lenten devotionals," he says. "This year, the elders of the church produced our own Lenten devotional guide reflecting on Micah 6."
St. John's Lutheran Church
1410 Ponce de Leon Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30307
Approximately 260 members
Micah 6 Contact:
The Rev. Bradley Schmeling, Pastor
One year after St. John's Lutheran Church began to implement the Micah 6 program--through newsletters, bulletins, preaching and Bible study--changes are noticeable, says the Rev. Bradley Schmeling.
"For example, the St. John 's Playgroup for parents and kids that meets once a month had been mostly a social thing," he says. "Now they have started doing projects and trips that involve the kids [in service activities]--such as collecting and wrapping Christmas gifts for distribution through Intown Community Assistance," a neighborhood social service agency also featured in the CBS special.
Micah 6 also can make subtle but important changes in how parishioners approach service projects with Intown Community Assistance (ICA), including work to provide food for hungry neighbors.
Because ICA depends on St. John's to fulfill the agency's monthly need for some 50 jars of peanut butter, the congregation is becoming known locally as "the peanut butter church." To meet the monthly goal, "parishioners are asked to think of this project whenever they go to the grocery store on regular shopping trips--to make it a part of everyday life," the Rev. Schmeling says.
Though shopping for peanut butter may seem like a lowly vehicle, when done in the spirit of Micah 6, it can raise consciousness about the poor and about what the Christian faith has to say about poverty. The Rev. Schmeling says that he has worked to integrate Micah 6 themes throughout his preaching, noting "the way Jesus spoke of poverty and how often he talked of poverty."
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