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KEEPING THE FAITH | Could you be next to be asked to join the 'Faith Hall of Fame?'

Despite daunting adversity and haunting opposition they persevered. These keepers of the faith serve as a template to maintain the focus upon the plans God has for our lives. 
The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin

Hebrews Chapter 11 is often referred to as the "Faith Hall of Fame." It presents a remarkable cadre of heroic figures from the Old Testament – extraordinary men and women whose experiences are highlighted to encourage and challenge the faith.

This chapter establishes its premise by defining ‘Faith as the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." Faith is the linkage into the spiritual realm, which connects us with God. Faith makes God a tangible reality for us. Faith is a fundamental element when seeking to establish a relationship with God. In fact, Hebrew 11:6 says, “It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.”

The examples provided by these venerated heroes and sheroes remain guiding lights for us today. Were they perfect? Absolutely not! They had issues, temptations, challenges and failings but were nevertheless called and covered by God. Despite daunting adversity and haunting opposition they persevered. These keepers of the faith serve as a template to maintain the focus upon the plans God has for our lives. 

Could it be that while you are lamenting about your current situation God is preparing you ultimately for induction into this Hall of Faith? Its corridors are expansive. To embolden your faith journey, I hope you will reflect upon the implications of the following messages contained within the sacred text:     

Matthew 6:33-34: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. 

1 Corinthians 2:9: That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 

Isaiah 54:17: “But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord; their vindication will come from me. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Candidates & Issues Forum

The Greater Youngstown Community Mobilization Coalition in collaboration with the Junior Civic League of Youngstown will hold a Fall Candidates & Issues Forum on Monday, Sept. 27, at 6:30 p.m. The forum will be virtual for the public Candidates for mayor, president of council and the Youngstown Board of Education will be featured. The public will be participating via Zoom or view on the Facebook page of New Bethel Baptist Church..

The Simeon Booker Award for Courage Program

We are approaching the statewide observance of Nonviolence Week, Oct. 3-9 which originated in Youngstown. The annual nonviolence parade will launch the occasion on Sunday, Oct. 3 at 3 p.m. It begins at the intersection of Wick and Wood streets and culminates with a rally at the Wean Park Amphitheatre.

Monday, Oct. 4 at the Tyler History Center will be the Simeon Booker Award for Courage program with a reception at 5:30 p.m. which costs $25. The program begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

The keynote speaker will be Ms. Joanne Bland, a civil rights adjacent and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Ala. Ms. Bland has been a highly engaged participant in the Civil Rights Movement from her earliest days and was the youngest person to have been jailed during any civil rights demonstration during that period. The late Congressman John Lewis and Rev. James “Jim” Ray will be the recipients of the prestigious Simeon Booker Award for Courage.

Profile in courage 

The Rev. James “Jim” Ray is a native of Pittsburgh but grew up during the depression of the 1930s in Columbus. He graduated from Ohio State University after military service. He was drafted into the Korean War and served in the Army’s Prisoner of War Command, on the island of Yoncho-do helping to guard North Korean Army prisoners. 

Returning from his service he graduated from OSU and enrolled that fall at McCormick Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian graduate school in Chicago. After graduation, Jim was ordained and began his ministerial career in Galesburg, Ill. The Rev. Ray began his career in campus ministry on the staff of the McKinley Foundation during the height of the civil rights struggle and the Vietnam War. 

He was a participant in the historic March on Washington. The messages of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and then 16-year-old John Lewis resonated within him. Days later, the Rev. Ray was on a picket line in front of the University Chancellor's home with others to protest the lack of African-Americans on the faculty and staff at the university. Later he was involved in demonstrations in Hattiesburg, Miss., during Holy Week in 1964, only weeks before the three young Civil Rights workers were found buried in a dam and at the end of the Selma March at the Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala. 

The Rev. Jim served on the staff of University & City Ministries in Pittsburgh. His work there was in urban campus ministry at the University of Pittsburgh and was a galvanizing influence in the Community of Reconciliation, a multiracial congregation. However, he left this position to join the staff of The Program for Female Offenders in Pittsburgh. While there, he began a large citizen coalition that sought humane change in the criminal justice system.  

In 1983, he returned to his career in campus ministry when he became the director of Cooperative Campus Ministry at Youngstown State University. Out of his prior civil rights and racial awareness experiences, Jim began, with African-American YSU staff women, a Racial Awareness Program that evolved into the Coalition for Diversity.

He initiated a weekly silent vigil for peace, standing by the "Rock" in the core area of the campus. As this vision grew Jim led an effort of students, faculty and staff to install a "Peace Pole" on the campus core where many peace vigils or protests took place.

Jim's concern remains that of healing the racial divide that continues today. Jim continues to work with those on both sides of this inhuman "divide" toward bringing God's people together which was always God’s divine intent.

As the IMA president, I had the honor of bestowing the Rev. Elizabeth Powell Heritage Award upon Rev. Ray in 2015 in recognition of his selfless service to champion social justice issues and advance human rights matters which have enhanced the quality of life within our community.

Jim retired in 1995 from his campus ministry career but remained active and true to his calling to serve. He is married to the former Suzanne Anzellotti.  im continues to fight the good fight of faith!

Profile in pioneering faith 

Rev. Jesse Jackson said it well, “Every generation needs the instruction and insights of past generations in order to forge its own vision.” The Rev. Elizabeth Powell is a testament to this truth! The late Pastor Powell was the beloved founding pastor of the World Fellowship Interdenominational Church and a community servant. She was the first woman to obtain Baptist ministerial credentials in our valley. 

Not always accepted because of her gender, she ultimately became a beloved community treasure. Undaunted, she made her presence and influence known and respected. In her 90’s, she oversaw the construction of the debt-free edifice she envisioned for worship! The ministry, which is now served by her son-in-the ministry, Rev. Larry McCulloh, is a visible testament to her tenacity and resiliency. 

I was blessed to nominate her for induction into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame for her relentless advocacy and untiring efforts of leading social justice causes. She championed human rights initiatives via the NAACP and organized labor groups. She obtained her eternal reward in 2007 at the age of 105 years old! 

The genes of Pastor Powell’s pioneering DNA are distinguishable in her great-granddaughter Dr. Sian Proctor. Dr. Proctor was launched into Earth orbit on September 15, 2021, as the pilot of the Crew Dragon space capsule. As the pilot on the Inspiration4 mission, she is the first African American woman to pilot a spacecraft. Sian is also a Major in the Civil Air Patrol where she serves as the aerospace education officer for its Arizona Wing.

To honor her endearing legacy, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance created the heritage award which bears her name.  Honorees are recognized for their humanitarian efforts while upholding principles that are consistent with the character of this iconic beloved community legend. Like Pastor Powell, their sacrifice, leadership and contributions have enhanced the quality of life for all within our community.

Profile in love 

Our community recently lost an amazing beacon of hope in the person of Victoria Allen who served as the long-time president of the ICU Block Watch which extended her reach well beyond the South Side of the city.  A much-loved humanitarian who continued to advocate while bravely facing personal medical challenges, I affectionately called her Ms. Youngstown.

“May the Work I've Done Speak For Me,” appropriately conveys the passion of her legacy of love.  Throughout her life, she gave her whole being unselfishly in service to others. Tirelessly and effortlessly she would galvanize and mobilize the community around projects. It would be a difficult task to find any positive event in this community which didn't have her imprint on it. Vicky made me look like a slacker with her boundless energy and passion! 

Whether she was organizing or enlisting others to share in the massive undertakings events such as trunk-or-treat, Easter egg hunts, hat and coat drives — it was always about others. She made it possible for numerous inner-city youth to venture beyond the area while also appreciating the treasures at home. She was a caregiver and advocate for her elderly neighbors as well while still maintaining active involvement with Crime Stoppers and the Youngstown Police Department. 

Vicky showed folks how to be community-minded. She never waited for others to do what she had the capacity to complete. Vicky was chosen to receive the 2021 Ohio Distinguished Law Enforcement Civilian Leadership Award and it was to be presented to her on  Oct. 18 by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. 

Expressions of love and condolences to her husband Michael, her children and mother Cherry Robinson who will feel the impact of this loss greater than any of us. We are blessed to be a part of her community family

I hope the shared legacies of these three amazing persons inspire others. As Paul shared in I Corinthians 15:58, “My dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless, keep the faith!

The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department, president of the Baptist Pastors Council and the local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and seven grandchildren and their mischievous canine, Sir Winston.

— All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise.

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