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Black Church News in Virginia

Black Pastors National Conference Addresses Financial Freedom, Health, and President-Elect Trump

Franklin Township, New Jersey
Some 50 Black pastors from across the country gathered Nov. 10-12 for the 5th Annual Financial Freedom Conference hosted by Rev. Dr. DeForest Soaries at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens.

In 2005, Soaries created a financial freedom movement called dfree® that addresses financial wellness among faith-based individuals, groups and organizations.

The pastors came from as far away as South Africa and many states including Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The conference was intended to motivate existing dfree® participants and to attract new audiences. It included concerts, networking, youth activities and dfree® training and support.

Pastors also confronted other difficult issues including dealing with stress. Therman E. Evans, MD, PhD, senior pastor of Morning Star Community Christian Center in Linden, New Jersey, encouraged pastors to stay healthy so that they can better balance their sometimes all-consuming work.

Evans noted that Black communities in particular suffer more from preventable health diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiac arrest. He encouraged pastors to first ask what they can do about stress by facing what is under their control and acting.

He then offered 10 more steps to fighting stress including: always be optimistic; learn and practice relaxation techniques; exercise; eat healthy, particularly cutting back on meat intake; learn to manage yourself/self-discipine; have a hobby; get sufficient sleep; never rely upon alcohol, cigarettes or any kind of drug; spend time with the people you love; and don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek therapy.

After a day of activities, the conversation turned to the fear that many young people of color, in particular, are expressing now that Donald Trump is president-elect. Rev. Dr. Lee A. Earl, a retired pastor now in Maryland, told the group what he recently shared with a young family member: “This is not the first time. If you think this is bad, you should have been here when Reagan was elected.” Earl went on to say all would be fine because “God always operates best in strange political climates.”

In the 1980s, the threat of Reaganomics encouraged local and then national Black pastors to form partnerships in ways that moved their focus from preaching and the internal workings of the church to community development, Earl said. At the time, he was a preacher in Detroit and crack cocaine was devastating neighborhoods. He and other preachers formed REACH (Reach Everyone, Administer Care and Help) to reclaim the neighborhoods and succeeded with unexpected new partnerships, including one with Black Muslims.

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“The church has the only real response to the prevailing political climate,” Earl said, before recalling how Bob Woodson introduced him to Soaries at a conference in D.C. He credited Soaries with coining the phrase “faith-based” initiatives and credited John McNight, a professor at Northwestern at the time, for teaching them to focus on answers, not problems, and to focus on the assets of poor communities – like families and theology.

Eventually, Earl and others reduced crime in the area by 37 percent “without the use of a gun.” They used church assets to buy abandoned properties and trained neighbors and then employed them to renovate the properties. Soaries ended the session by inviting pastors on a tour to see the health clinic, the senior citizen, veteran and other housing projects and businesses that his community development corporation has created.

“It’s all about community,” Earl said. “Every initiative of God’s is about bringing us back into harmony with the community God created in the first place.”

Dr. Soaries is the author of Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom. He has issued a Billion Dollar Challenge as a national initiative and free resource to help individuals and families collectively pay down $1 billion in consumer debt.

For more information about dfree®, visit www.mydfree.org and follow the hashtag, #dFreeNextLevel, on social media.

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