In 2022, we gratefully received a $10,000 “Crossing Divides” grant from the Kindle Project, which called for “grassroots initiatives and local organizations that are working with members of their community to resolve conflict and make meaningful positive change in their hometowns, across aisles and regardless of social differences… [and] to support groups that are addressing root problems and are focused on healing political, cultural, religious, civic, or other conflicts.” In describing what they considered to be a “successful outcome,” the Project called for “giving members of the community opportunities for common lived experience outside their usual comfort zones and a greater sense of community solidarity, as unity and dignity replaces distrust and division.” Fostering such opportunities lies at the heart of the CAFCH vision.
On 8 AM on Saturday morning, May 20, 2023, in a historic moment for CAFCH, volunteers from King’s Temple Missionary Baptist Church and First Presbyterian Church, Clarksdale met to partner in the ongoing work at the new house on Douglas St. in Riverton. For the next 8 hours, some 20 volunteers from the churches performed much-needed repairs on the west side of the CAFCH dorm, provided deep cleaning of the dorm kitchen, and put siding and roofing on the shed accompanying the under-construction home, CAFCH’s 50th. In addition, a crew of three high schoolers from the Beta Club at Clarksdale High led by Raquel Wells-Williams, as well as Neal Mitchell from Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, and Charles Lane from the Clarksdale Fire Department made much-appreciated contributions.
The collaboration was the brainchild of pastors Mark Webb of KT (and former assistant pastor at FPC) and Ryan Dean of FPC. Coordinating the workday was CAFCH Operations Coordinator Gramm Phillips and overseeing the actual work was CAFCH Construction Supervisor Ben Williams, with excellent supervisory support from Mack Williams III and Roosevelt Howard of KT and David Holt and Pete Johnson of FPC. But the real story of the day was the presence of the unheralded volunteers who bravely put aside all hesitation to scale the scaffolding for the roof work, manned (and womanned) the unfamiliar nail gun to attach the siding, and cheerfully haul away debris from the two work sites. At the end of the day (of perfect weather, despite forecasts to the contrary), everyone expressed a genuine sense of accomplishment, both for the work itself and for the Christian fellowship accompanying it. As one FPC volunteer put it, “I’ve been involved in a lot of work projects around Clarksdale over the years, but I’ve never seen a black church and a white church cooperating together like this!”
Roughly 24 hours later, members of the churches reconvened for a potluck at the lovely KT Charles Johnson Fellowship Hall. KT cooks prepared the main dishes and provided drinks, while FPC volunteers contributed desserts, and their efforts were both exemplary and well-appreciated, as well as delicious! Before sharing the meal, Pastor Mark Webb opened the festivities with prayer and new homeowner Chrisheira Haynes and the architect of the 50th house John Barnes were recognized. When the eating was successfully and gratefully completed, Pastor Ryan Dean presented a homily from the 133rd Psalm, which begins with “How good and how pleasant it is when God’s people dwell in unity,” before the entire group gathered outside for a picture. It was more than a fitting ending for a long-anticipated project—hopefully, the first of many such collaborations between KT and FPC and a model for other churches and civic organizations in Clarksdale. Our sincere thanks go out to all who planned, participated, and helped fund this wonderful occasion!
Bill Sutton NEWS