Increase dialogue to decrease racism in ‘divided city’ of Youngstown, congregation told

By Sean Barron


The Rev. James “Jim” Ray was humbled and honored to have received an award for his civil- and human-rights work, but it took little time for him to express a deep desire for everyone to keep their eyes on what he sees as the bigger prize.

“God calls us to be healers and emancipators,” the Rev. Mr. Ray told those who attended Thursday’s annual Emancipation Proclamation and Installation Service at New Bethel Baptist Church, 1507 Hillman St. “Too often we wait for God to act, but God waits for us to cooperate.”

The two-hour community worship celebrated the 152nd anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

The famous document brought freedom to slaves in the so-called “rebellious” states, but did not free those living in states under Union control.

Hosting the service were the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Youngstown & Vicinity and the Baptist Pastors Council.

Mr. Ray, who received the Rev. Elizabeth Powell Heritage Award, called Youngstown “a divided city” and noted that he hopes to bring together and increase dialogue between a greater number of people of all races and faiths to further tackle racism.

The Rev. Mrs. Powell was a longtime social and community activist who founded the World Fellowship Interdenominational Church, championed human-rights causes and was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. She died in 2007 at age 105.

It’s imperative that the larger messages from events such as Thursday’s service are coupled with social action such as attending political meetings and talking to ordinary people, he continued.

“We need to say to those in power, ‘We have something to add to the mix,’” Mr. Ray said, adding that too many churches remain silent regarding social ills.

The Rev. Gena Thornton, pastor of Grace AME Church in Warren, read the text from the Emancipation Proclamation document. She noted that its main purpose of freeing many slaves did not initially help those in “border states” such as Missouri and Tennessee.

“It did not bring about an immediate end to human bondage,” the Rev. Mrs. Thornton said, adding that it did, however, lead to the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified Dec. 6, 1865, and abolished slavery in the United States.

The main speaker was the Rev. Michael Harrison Sr., pastor of Union Baptist Church and president of the Ohio Baptist State Convention.

The nation has largely moved “away from Godliness to self-centeredness,” the Rev. Mr. Harrison said. The minister added that he believes recent high-profile killings of black males by white police officers in New York City, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo., were unjust, but also were “trials and tribulations” to wake more people up and encourage them to turn toward God.

He also read from 2 Chronicles 7:12-14, which talks about God appearing to Solomon in a dream and declaring the Temple as a house of sacrifice, as well as how God will forgive and heal the land of those who turn from sin.

Additional remarks were from the Rev. Kevin Crum Sr., pastor of New Hope Baptist Church; the Rev. Kenneth L. Simon, pastor of New Bethel; and the Rev. Dr. Lewis W. Macklin II, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church.

“We must do what God has called us to do,” the Rev. Mr. Macklin said. “We are the ones folks are looking for to make a difference.”

The service also featured the installation of officers from a variety of local organizations.

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