Magazine article The Christian Century

Among Royalty

Magazine article The Christian Century

Among Royalty

Article excerpt

IN THE 1960s, famed community organizer Saul Alinksy, Arthur M. Brazier and the Woodlawn Organization took on the University of Chicago, the mayor's office, some church groups and even this magazine as they strove to improve life for people in the Woodlawn community near Hyde Park.

This summer, the 86-year-old Bishop Brazier retired from his position as pastor of the now 20,000-member Apostolic Church of God in Chicago (where Barack Obama spoke on Father's Day). Along with developing the church's ever-expanding and paid-for sanctuary and campus, Brazier helped give life and light and safety to the environs of the church, while he provided a model for people beyond Woodlawn and Chicago.

In the 1960s, Brazier was called soft of manner but "hard-nosed," and his relationship with his church's neighbor, the University of Chicago, was rocky. The school was accused--not always without reason--of adding to the problems of the crime-ridden, overcrowded, underfunded, overlooked Woodlawn area. Yet at a dinner on October 19, 1993, Hugo Sonnenschein, the soon-to-be-inaugurated president of the university, invited Brazier to speak. They saw themselves not as adversaries, but as partners in building a better neighborhood.

Just a few weeks ago, my wife, Harriet, and I were at the Apostolic Church of God for the wedding of our friend Elizabeth Norman, an admired soprano who often sings there. The wedding was a grand affair, rivaling a House of Windsor ceremony for elegance, but outshining it for spiritual, familial and gospeled liveliness. At the reception we sat with Bishop Brazier and his wife. …

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