Black Church Leaders To Launch Yearlong Community Outreach Initiative

Interior of old church

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A coalition of religious leaders from Los Angeles area Black churches are planning to launch a yearlong initiative Saturday to "restore the union between the local church and the local community," organizers said.

"The Apology Tour" is being spearheaded by Shep Crawford, founder and pastor of The Experience Christian Ministries in Los Angeles and a Grammy- winning music producer.

"We are calling this The Apology Tour. Why? Because we, the church, want to apologize to the community for not being there the way you need us, the way that you would like for us to be," Crawford said in a video announcement urging other church leaders to get involved.

"We know the relationship between the church and the community can be strengthened. This is not only a moment, this is a movement. We're ready to apologize and we are ready to become one with the community."

The coalition includes more than 40 faith-based organizations. Plans call for the development of services such as court support, local school engagement, gang intervention advocacy, healing spaces and community meetings.

A news conference announcing the initiative is set for noon Saturday outside Crawford's church.

On Sunday the leaders of the participating ministries will walk out of their churches and into their surrounding communities for one to four hours to talk with residents and offer services and giveaways tailored to the local needs and priorities.

"The Church is striving to strike a balance between having a church within the building and being the church within the community," Crawford said. "The building serves as a gas station, but the ultimate destination is to create a healthy community."

Ministries participating in the effort are located throughout California including Los Angeles, Compton, Long Beach, Inglewood, Watts and San Bernardino.

Crawford said the effort has been built around a concept he calls CPR:

-- Connection - reintroducing the church to the community.

-- Partnership - working with schools, parks and recreation facilities, politicians, law agencies, and other community and faith-based organizations.

-- Relationship - healing strained communal relationships.

"The Apology Tour has my total approbation,"  Bishop Noel Jones, senior pastor of the City of Refuge Church in Gardena said in a statement. "I am sorry for failing to provide more wonderful alternatives for our community's sons and daughters."

Black Lives Matter Los Angeles is among the community groups planning to link its efforts to The Apology Tour.

"Every successful Black liberation movement has had spirituality at its core," said Dr. Melina Abdullah, co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter Grassroots. "The recommendation of Pastor Shep Crawford and other religious leaders to move the church into the streets is precisely the kind of infusion that we need to win in this justice struggle."

In addition to the community outreach, volunteers from Experience Christian Ministries and other faith leaders plan to host monthly training sessions to address issues such as motherhood and fostering community development and cooperation.

"The goal is for all participating ministries to meet with, talk with, and love the community surrounding their specific local churches," Crawford told the Los Angeles Wave newspaper. "We hope to establish the church's facilities as a safe and healthy space for community healing, resources, meetings, and peace advocate support.

"What we know is that in every community, there are several local houses of worship. We also know that with the shift in demographics, and the residual impact of the pandemic, there is a greater possibility of disconnect in the relationship between the community and the local ministry, house of worship, and vice versa. Our objective is simple, to revive and restore that the relationship and have both become stronger together."

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