Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

National Baptists Offer Classes on `Empowering' Blacks

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

National Baptists Offer Classes on `Empowering' Blacks

Article excerpt

National Baptists have come to St. Louis to study ways to help blacks.

About 45 people, most of them pastors, showed up for the Rev. Dr. Forest Harris' course at America's Center on Tuesday. He explored ways churches can get money for economic development in black communities.

He offers as models Cannan Missionary Baptists Church, in Louisville, Ky., and Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif. He'll walk pastors through examples of how these churches and others started credit unions, found start-up loans for small, black-owned businesses, and demonstrated other efforts at "empowering" black neighborhoods.

"Religion played an important part in black people's struggle for freedom and wholeness," Harris said. The Vanderbilt University professor is author of "What It Means to Be Black and Christian" and is pastor of Pleasant Green Baptist Church, in Nashville, Tenn.

"It is the primary institution that holds our people together."

His course is one of more than 130 offered at the 91st annual session of the denomination's Congress of Christian Education. Other 16-hour courses teach church librarians to put their materials on computers, show Sunday school teachers how to use puppets to tell Bible stories and celebrate blacks in the Bible. Courses started Tuesday and end Friday.

More than 20,000 had registered by 9 a.m., but conference officials were too busy to run a tally. Between 35,000 and 55,000 are attending the gathering, said the Rev. Sammie Jones, the St. Louis host. Most are the bac kbones of their congregations: preachers, Sunday school teachers, deacons, trustees, and wives and children of pastors and deacons.

So many have come that they are spilling out of meeting rooms into hallways and every nook and cranny of the convention center. Many of the classes are in banquet halls at five downtown hotels and gyms and sanctuaries at six large area churches. …

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