Weekly Update: The power of Memphis' faith community


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As we turned the page from 2018 to 2019 this week, our annual prayer breakfast reminded me of the power of the faith community in our city.

For starters, I was honored to have so many pillars of the community by our side:

  • Bishop E. Lynn Brown, Resident Bishop, C.M.E. Church
  • Rev. Clinton Bryant, Gethsemane Garden COGIC
  • Bishop Linwood Dillard, Citadel of Deliverance COGIC
  • Apostle Ricky Floyd, Pursuit of God Transformation Center
  • Rev. Darell L. Harrington, New Sardis Baptist
  • Rev. Peris J. Lester, Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E.
  • Rev. Msgr. John B. McArthur, Christian Brothers High
  • Rev. Dr. Bartholomew Orr, Brown Baptist
  • Bishop Charles H. Mason Patterson Sr., Pentecostal Temple COGIC
  • Bishop Brandon B. Porter, Greater Community Temple COGIC
  • Rev. Dr. George Robertson, Second Presbyterian
  • Rev. Dr. Melvin Charles Smith, Mt. Moriah East Baptist
  • Rev. Fred Tappan, Eureka Truevine Baptist
  • Rev. Karren D. Todd, Lindenwood
  • Rev. Dr. J. Lawrence Turner, Mississippi Boulevard
  • Rev. Melvin D. Watkins Jr., Mt. Vernon Baptist-Westwood
  • Rev. Willie Ward Jr., Mt. Pisgah C.M.E.
  • Rev. Dr. Dorothy Wells, St. George’s Episcopal
  • Bishop Henry Williamson Sr., Presiding Bishop, First Episcopal District

And Rev. Dr. LaSimba Gray, the legendary and recently retired pastor at New Sardis Baptist Church, was going to deliver the message before he woke up feeling a little under the weather. That led us to be blessed by the inspiring message of Dr. Turner from Mississippi Boulevard (pictured below with his wife, Bridgett).

Mayor's Prayer Breakfast

Faith is important to me. As your mayor, I’ve come to know more and more just how important the faith community — no matter your tradition or beliefs — is to Memphis. I spoke about that in my brief remarks at Monday’s breakfast, and I'm adapting some of those remarks to share with you today.

Memphis is a city that’s changed the world, in large part because people of faith have led the way.

Think about it: Men and women of faith pulled Memphis through the yellow fever epidemics of the late 1800s. Faith leaders started our first hospitals — think of Baptist, Methodist, and the old St. Joseph’s hospitals. Even St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital started, quite literally, with a prayer from a devout Christian.

People of faith led much of the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis and were represented within the ranks of the brave 1,300 sanitation workers who struck against my predecessor 50 years ago. They demanded equality and respect — and used a sign that advanced the movement and is recognized all over the world with four simple words: I AM A MAN.

Religious leaders started many of our best educational institutions, from preschool through college, such as Christian Brothers University.

And for our entire 200-year history, it has been people of faith who have fed the hungry, housed the homeless, and provided for the needs of the poor on a day-in, day-out basis.

Many of you in the audience today are the leaders of our faith community, and the role you play in the success of our city cannot be overstated. Thank you. There is no way Memphis could have achieved so much without people like you — people driven by faith to make life better for others.

While Memphis does have momentum, we must have the faith community do even more if we are truly to become a city where every person, every family, and every neighborhood can feel the momentum, participate in the economic growth being achieved by so many others in our community, and have equal opportunity for educational and financial success.

What do we need? Here are two practical and specific areas where you can make a huge impact — mentoring, and reading to a child.

In a letter to his granddaughter this past July clarifying his popular phrase “one thousand points of light," the late President George H.W. Bush wrote, “I believe I was right when I said, as President, there can be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others.”

More than anything, I ask that you get involved — to be a “point of light.” Don’t just thumb past the bad news story of the day.

God calls us to do more.

Join us in the fight today.

Want to join us in the fight for a better Memphis? Find out more about those two calls I made by visiting this site to mentor a young person and this site to join SCS’ Team Read or this site for Arise2Read.

Together, we’ll achieve the Memphis we all want.

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