A challenge to Black churches: ‘Break down walls’ that divide our community

A St. Paul reverend calls on the faithful to tackle worldly problems


By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


The Black church must be more vocal on current local and national issues, says a local cleric.

During a February 16 joint celebration service at St. James A.M.E. Church in St. Paul, Rev. Dr. James Wilson of St. Paul’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church told the two congregations during his sermon that the Black community has become too divided. “We should not build walls that separate the dark skinned from the light skinned African Americans,” he preached. “We should not build walls that will separate the educated from the uneducated African American. We should not build walls that will separate the successful from the unsuccessful African American.”

Father James Wilsonweb
Rev. Dr. James Wilson of St. Paul’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
Photo by Charles Hallman

Wilson adds that the Black church has allowed itself to become too insulated from the community concerns: “A church is not meant to be exclusive but inclusive,” he explained. “The church is not meant to be a segregated community or a congregated community. A church is meant to be a pillar in the community and not a caterpillar … a voice for the voiceless.”

Such as immigration reform: “We can reach out to our immigrant communities and have those conversations … and be a part of the ongoing immigration [reform] debate. They need the support of the Black church in Minnesota,” said the Holy Trinity priest, who added that the Black church today should be “obligated” to be a “community asset.”

“The church should be helping to improve the educational disparities that are facing our community,” Wilson advised. “We can also collaborate on improving the unemployment gap in our community. We can talk about diabetes, high blood pressure… We should now go down the streets and look at our brothers and sisters … and bring them up and help them meet their own situations. The time has come for us to reach out and welcome people.”

“I think as a church we must grow and we must come out of our walls and get involved in our community, just like Father Wilson says,” Rev. Stacey Smith, the pastor at St. James, later told the MSR. “It is time for us to rise up as one church … To come out and begin to fight these issues that are affecting our congregation. Our children and our neighbors are suffering in the process. Our communities are falling apart. We have to take some action.”

Afterwards Wilson further explained, “What I was trying to say in essence is it breaks my heart when I read about the ‘walls’ that separate our African Americans … I want to break down those walls in our African American community that separate our African Americans. Our community has gone through a lot of struggles over the years.

“I think Black congregations have been silent” as it pertains to current issues, Wilson concluded. “I am not hearing much from our Black congregations, not just in Minnesota but all over.”


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.