Dialogue strengthens the community that binds us
By the Rev. Dr. Enoch Holloway
Many of our nation’s communities are suffering. People are seeking answers to find harmony across perceived racial, cultural and denominational boundaries. The Word of God provides peace if our churches and communities seek humble reconciliation through open discussions that shine a light on the underlying issues that too often divide us.
When we discussed starting the “It’s Time” community forums, our hearts were troubled with the community conflicts across the country grabbing media attention such as the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. We have since seen a series of community conflicts in New York, Charleston and most recently in Baltimore.
We began to realize that it was time for us and our community to come together, openly addressing the underlying fabric that polarized those communities in the aftermath of the incidents with police. We know that seeds of strife and sinful human nature lurk in our hearts and know no city boundaries.
We aren’t talking about any specific incidents in Wake Forest. Even so, we have fostered an ongoing dialogue and partnership among the church community, the town of Wake Forest and our neighbors.
We seek to continue to expand the discussion to reach more people and involve more of our community organizations. An ongoing community discussion is a cornerstone that allows all of us who care deeply about our community to avoid polarizing responses and conflicts in our community.
It’s Time III is the third in a series of community forums to foster a productive dialogue in Wake Forest. It will be held on Thursday, June 4, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Ledford Center on the campus of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary at 120 S Wingate St., Wake Forest.
Please join our discussion.
There is no cost to attend the event. Though tickets have been distributed to community organizations, additional tickets will be available at the door.
The genesis for the It’s Time community forum was a discussion during a monthly meeting of Clergy, Chaplains and Missionaries of Wake Forest, an interdenominational Christian group founded by Rev. Ken Steigler.
Rev. Ken is a retired pastor who works as a minister at Wake Forest United Methodist Church and All Nations Church in North Raleigh. As a young, white seminary student at the Boston University of Theology, he led a team that traveled to Selma in 1965 to work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders.
Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones joined us for the first It’s Time forum hosted at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in January. More than 100 people developed a list of strategies now prioritized to 12 items (see sidebar). We are on a journey and making progress on many of the priorities. We are expanding involvement throughout the community to accomplish all of them.
The community is invited to join us at It’s Time III, participate in a discussion of the priorities and help us develop actions to accomplish the goals. Joining me to lead the discussions are:
Walter Strickland, a theology instructor and special advisor to the seminary president for diversity.
Donald Bowling, who served as the chief of police-community relations in New Brunswick, N.J. He also served as the security guard for Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and her children. He is now retired and lives in Wake Forest.
We have also invited Wake Forest Police Chief Jeff Leonard to attend and speak at the forum.
Small group discussions will be led by the table hosts include members of the clergy, chaplains and missionaries of Wake Forest, the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the YMCA of the Triangle and the Wake Forest Rotary Club.
We express our deepest gratitude to the police department for putting their lives on the line to serve and protect the Town of Wake Forest. It’s Time forums are designed for our community and our community of faith to collaborate with the police department.
As the father of a sheriff’s deputy in the Wake County Sheriff’s Department, I know the great risk police officers accept each shift they serve. We want the police officers in Wake Forest to be as safe as possible and never be exposed to the pressures that officers have endured in other cities across the nation.
People assume that because we are a smaller community that our problems are easier to address, but we have the same challenges beneath the surface. I would love to think that our community would never allow such conflict to happen. The best way to do that is to have an ongoing dialogue about how we can work together to avoid those kinds of conflicts.
I pray that we will all rise up and stand together. Not just one church, but the unified body of all churches and our community. We are working toward that goal with It’s Time forums. The storms we face today across our nation can be calmed if we stand united upon the rock that is the Word of God.
Together, we can walk by faith, hand in hand, as brothers and sisters to discern the will of God in our lives and in our communities.