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On the evening of Sunday, January 24, 2010, approximately 500 people gathered at Genesis United Methodist Church of Louisville, Kentucky to participate in an “Ecumenical Prayer and Blessing Worship Program” for Reverend Christopher S. Campbell. Several clergy from local churches were in attendance at the program, including Reverend Kathy O. Goodwin of Coke Memorial United Methodist Church, Pastor Ja’mel Armstrong of The Soul Center, Reverend Kirk Bush of Harrods Creek Baptist Church, and Minister Toni Overton of St. Stephen Baptist Church. Reverend Dr. F. Bruce Williams of Bates Memorial Baptist Church gave the message, and the St. Stephen Temple Choir provided music. Ms. Annie Cato Haigler, Lay Leader at Genesis UMC, provided comments on behalf of the members. Reverend D. Anthony Everett, Associate Director for African American Ministries, provided comments from New Church and Congregational Development. Reverend Dr. Michael Gibbons, Louisville District Superintendent for the Kentucky Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, provided comments on behalf of Bishop Lindsey Davis.
Reverend Campbell, a former assistant pastor at St. Stephen Baptist Church of Louisville and new pastor at Genesis UMC, brings with him years of experience in ministry in Louisville in the context of the African American Church. The 32-year-old is the youngest African American United Methodist pastor and one of the youngest pastors in the Conference. With the leadership of Reverend Campbell, the United Methodist Church is reaching 18- through 35-year-old urban ethnic persons in the West End of Louisville who are in need of the healing Word of Jesus Christ. Church attendance within the first two months of his ministry at Genesis increased from 17 to 166 people and continues with a Sunday average of 98 people from week to week.
In the African American church tradition, it is customary to have a prayer and blessing worship program to welcome new clergy into the local community. From there, ecumenical bonds are established as churches across denominations work ministry together in Christian unity. This was true in the days of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Civil Rights Movement, and the tradition continues today. At the end of the program, all of the clergy surrounded Reverend Campbell in a prayer and promise of Christian unity in support of the ministry at Genesis United Methodist Church.
Anthony Everett, Associate Director of NCCD for African-American Ministries