Alfred Harris Sr., pastor of Saints of God Church, is battling for social justice for Flint residents, and he has a caution for others doing the same.
He knows being a social activist brings challenges – challenges that should not take the focus away from the church. Pastors, and Christians in general, must remember that while fighting on the grassroots level, spiritual aspects must be involved in the process, he says.
The greatest challenge for him, as a pastor, is to make certain the spiritual aspects are not forgotten.
“If we are not careful, we will be out here flinging, fighting and fussing, but hopefully not cussing, but without the ordination of God because we have forgotten the spiritual aspects,” says Harris, who is also president of the Flint-based Concerned Pastors for Social Action (CPSA).
“Churches need to get involved with educating residents about the resources available to help them make the community look and feel better.” – Pastor Alfred Harris Sr., pastor of Saints of God Church,
The CPSA is a membership of religious leaders in Flint and the surrounding area who believe the Bible compels them to fight for the rights of the underserved and the neglected. He and the CPSA believe it is the duty of all church leaders to unify and provide a voice for those without resources.
The organization, led by Harris, was the was the first group to go to Lansing and declare to state government something was desperately wrong with the water in Flint, and the problem needed to be eradicated.
Initially, they were rebuffed.
“They didn’t think anything was wrong or that anything could be done,” Harris says.
About 18 months later, after bringing in Dr. Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech expert on water quality issues into the city, the state found out Harris and CPSA were right. Their activism resulted in a settlement of millions of dollars to help those impacted by the water crisis, but Harris knows there is much more work to be done.
“The people of the city of Flint still need to be made whole, with no cost to themselves. They are not responsible for the crisis but they still endure,” he says.
As Flint moves forward, local citizens need to get involved with recovery effort, Harris says, encouraging them to help find ways to prevent crime. To further that, he would like to see churches and local residents get involved with conflict resolution in their communities. That, he says, would be more effective than bringing in a downtown Flint agency, the police department or the State of Michigan.
He is currently researching and evaluating how he and his church, Saints of God, can help with conflict resolution.
Another solution to recovery is for all residents, whether homeowners or renters, to take care of their property and help eliminate blight. For their part, churches need to get involved with educating residents about the resources available to help them make the community look and feel better.
Harris is grateful for the support his church provides as he engages local issues as well as what his congregation does for Flint’s residents. Saints of God and its congregation believe Jesus’ example was to minister to the total person, mind, soul and spirit.
For example, the church is always ready to respond to citizens who reach out to them in need of food and water.
It also combines neighborhood evangelism with outreach and sends teams of church members out to evangelize. When they go they take along bags of fresh fruit and vegetables to hand out to citizens. The church also regularly sends out volunteers to support jail ministry and to minister to those residing at Carriage Town Ministries.
In all that they do, Harris encourages Christians to self-evaluate and ensure they are motivated by the Holy Spirit. That, he says, is the ultimate power source for all Christians, who must remember they cannot depend on man.
“If you keep your focus on God, you have a lot better chance of not only surviving, but surviving with joy and optimism,” he says.
Harris admits that is sometimes not an easy task. Still, with all Flint’s citizens have been through economically and with the water crisis, he is encouraged there are so many churches still thriving and moving forward.
“When God endorses you, you are not defeated by the economy or any other issues,” he says.
W.E.B. Du Bois was quoted as saying, “Education must not simply teach work. It must teach life.”
Pastor Alfred Harris, Sr. is not only defending life, but also teaching life.
Editor’s note: Saints of God Church is located at 528 W Pierson Rd, Flint, MI 48505. You can reach them by calling 810-785-4690 or visiting their facebook page
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