When PR shines the light on church
Standing Together is a rally that brought together Christians who wanted to send out the strong message of their concern about – and their determination to combat – youth violence and knife crime. During the rally, Rev Les Isaac – one of its organisers – announced that the Church is no good at PR or at letting the world know the good things it does. I said a silent Amen; his comments were so true.
People have a lot to say about the Church, but not a lot of it is good. Typical comments include: “Pastors!!! They’re just in it for themselves.” “The Church isn’t doing anything.” “Church is about community, so why aren’t they trying to stop knife crime?” “Churches are just about money.” “Church people, dem too hypocrite!” And these are just the mild criticisms.
All these negative comments say loud and clear that the Church hasn’t been good – and still isn’t any good – at doing PR, or at telling their communities about the good things God has done in the lives of church members and the activities Christians undertake to serve others.
I’ve been privileged to run PR campaigns that alerted the wider public to some of the things happening within the Church and I’ve seen the positive impact it has had on the local community.
I was part of the PR team that publicised the opening of Kingsway International Christian Centre’s (KICC) new 4000=seater church in Hackney back in 1998. It was a historic moment: the largest church to open in the UK for a 100 years, and the world got to hear about it.
Leading media – including The Times, The Guardian, Sky News and many more – ran stories about the church and its pastor, Matthew Ashimolowo. The stories about KICC connected with people of all races. A number of people told me that seeing KICC in the media – whether in print, on TV or radio – had made them contemplate going back to church.
I also worked with Street Pastors, an organisation initially started in 2003 to combat gun crime. I accompanied them when they went out on the streets in Hackney. The public, especially non-Christians, were ecstatic to see them. They had seen them in the media and were excited about the church doing something to change the lives of young people.
It was Jesus who told the disciples they needed to let their light shine, and this is what churches do when they use PR to share their stories of what God is doing in their midst.
We live in a
great age. There are so many tools at
the Church’s disposal to utilise and to do PR – not only to encourage, but also
to dispel some of the unnecessary stereotypes that exist about the Church. In
doing so, we point people to the glorious, impactful, transformative message of
The Black Church is not immune from abuse allegations
A lot of people are sharing how they’ve experienced sexual abuse, manipulation and hurt from within the Church.
The most harrowing are the stories of adults – men and women = revealing how they were groomed and sexually abused by church clergy of both sexes.
In response to these revelations, some churches have had to pay compensation to victims and issues apologies. The issue has become so serious that the Pope recently issued an Apostolic Letter, making it mandatory for nuns and priests to report cases of sexual abuse and cover ups in the church.
The Black church community is not immune from this issue. Perpetrators of sexual abuse come in all ages, races and genders, and there are people in the pews of Black churches, who have experienced sexual abuse and manipulation.
My questions are: Are there structures in place to support victims? Are procedures in place to confront perpetrators, and report them to authorities if they’ve committed a criminal act? I certainly hope so.
Sexual abuse committed by spiritual leaders is incredibly damaging; the positions they hold affords them a high level of esteem by churchgoers. As a result, those who commit such acts are guilty of crimes of the highest order, because they’ve abused their position of trust. Churches therefore need to have the appropriate systems in place to minister to the victim and deal with the perpetrator. Otherwise, churches will rightly be considered equally guilty for harbouring those who have betrayed people’s trust.
WE ARE OUR SISTER’S KEEPER
We live in the Information Age, amongst the most knowledgeable generation of young women ever – but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have the experience and understanding required to overcome the many challenges life will throw at them.
This must be one of the reasons why the Bible calls on mature, wise, godly women to provide the spiritual mentoring and guidance young women need.
They are dealing with many of the issues we, as mature women, dealt with when we were young: lone parenting, marriage/relationship issues, loneliness, celibacy, careers, domestic violence and abuse, financial issues, prayer, godliness, and much, much more.
We are our sister’s keeper. And if we are mature in the faith, it’s our job to help the young, middle-aged and old to become the wise, understanding women God has called them to be.