Church community struts its stuff

"One of the reasons behind it is to dispel some of the myths about the so-called ineffectiveness of the black church," Johnson said. "We wanted to correct that erroneous propaganda that's going out. We are strong. We are united and we're together. I think it's a false impression spread by people of color who've left the black church and have gone to other nondenominational churches. But if I left a church I would not want to leave a stain on the church that I had left."

Johnson continues, "One of the things that I had to deal with coming from the south is changes in how God works in communities especially in the sphere of religion. I've been the pioneer of women in ministry in our community. I've licensed and ordained the first women pastor. I'm a champion for women in the ministry, especially if they're trained."

Matthews sees changes in women's roles in the black church over the past decade.

"I think that in the beginning 10 years ago there seemed to be some resistance, but a decade has brought about a lot of change," she said. "I think that female pastors -- well trained pastors -- are more widely accepted and I think that African American women are taking their rank in the black church and slowly but surely it's becoming more acceptable."

"One of the things that we're planning on doing is to have an Economic Development Conference to make us aware of what's going on in our community and what's available to our businesses on the local state and federal government levels."

Johnson said that representatives of several churches have formed an alliance whose mission is to bring in some businesses, like sandwich shops and bookstores, that could be owned and operated by area black churches and church-based investments.

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