Greening the Black Church
For Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon, Senior Pastor at C. N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC, healing the mind, body, and spirit is an essential part of healing the earth.
|Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon|
Rev. Cannon believes that, while members of his predominately African American congregation might be unfamiliar with some of the green movement’s terminology, they can immediately embrace the connection between environmental stewardship and needs they see in their own community. “People understand the impact of food deserts and the need for green space to plant vegetable gardens,” says Rev. Cannon. “You have to connect with those practical concerns to create a compelling message.”
In 2016, Rev. Cannon attended a summit in Baltimore sponsored by Green the Church, an initiative designed to tap into the power and purpose of the African American church community. After hearing other black church leaders talk about the role of churches as centers for environmental and economic resilience, he invited Rev. Ambrose Carroll, Green the Church’s founder, to bring the next summit to Charlotte.
“We held the summit in conjunction with our annual preaching revival,” Cannon shares. The theme became “Revive us Again: The Black Church Response to Climate Change and Global Renewal.” Participants spent the morning finding spiritual renewal and the afternoon talking about renewal of the earth.
For Rev. Cannon and Jenkins Presbyterian, the commitment to improving lives while saving the planet didn’t end with the conference. The church partnered with the Mecklenbury County Health Department to create a program focused on improving diet and exercise in the community. They are also encouraging their members to join the upcoming Ecobible Study and Mission Enterprise at Mayfield Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, led by Dr. Covia Boyd from Union Institute & University. The study focuses on how economic opportunity connects with environmental stewardship. Participants will learn how to save money by growing healthy food, and how to earn money by starting a healthy food business.
For Rev. Cannon, connecting economic enterprise with green living is essential to reaching the African American community. “What if a community garden has a purpose?” he asks. “If we encourage people to take the food they grow to a farmers market, then it becomes a source of income and it brings healthy food to a community.”
Asked how he would encourage more African American churches to join the green movement, Rev. Cannon says, “You have to invite people to come and see.” C. N. Jenkins Church is offering that invitation, one garden plot and one healthy lifestyle at a time.