Narrative in Action
Narrative in Action
About Jim Summey (D.Min. ’91)
After Colloquium 2006, we had to admit that we couldn’t identify one graduate in a reunion group shot. Embarrassing as it was, we ran the picture and asked for help.
And now we know: he is Jim Summey, a pastor for 33 years, who earned a degree in 1982 from Wake Forest’s Southeastern Theological Seminary and, in 1991, his Doctor of Ministry from Columbia. His son, John, saw the picture in Vantage and sent a gracious letter identifying his father. John also sent a copy of a newspaper article that featured his father and his ministry in the tough West End neighborhood of High Point, North Carolina.
We received John’s letter and the article early this year and since then have been in touch with Jim Summey. What a story there is behind that name and face! As Jim himself says, “This is NARRATIVE in action, something I learned years ago from George Stroup’s book [The Promise of Narrative Theology: Recovering the Gospel in
the Church] . . .” Here’s a little of how that story goes.
Fifteen years ago, Jim Summey began a ministry at English Road Baptist Church, in High Point’s rough West End neighborhood. The area was infested with crack dealers, prostitutes, and thugs, but Jim was determined to help his neighbors regain control of their streets. He and his congregation reached out to everyone—including the criminals.
Eventually his congregation and two others in the neighborhood—First Reformed United Church of Christ and Rankin Memorial United Methodist Church—began West End Ministries (WEM) to tackle the problems together. WEM provides meals, shelter, and other services. As Jim Summey says, “We are working together as ONE in this adventure because we can do more together than if our churches worked on the same problems separately.”
Criminals continued to wreak havoc in the neighborhood, however, until three years ago when WEM became involved in a unique community program called the West End Initiative. This brought WEM together with High Point’s police department, city government, and U.S. and county district attorneys. “We had been praying for and begging for this help for years,” Jim says.
As WEM and other community agencies have continued their services in the neighborhood, the police and district attorneys offer drug dealers a deal: they can avoid arrest by going out of business. Astonishingly, and quickly, nearly all the crack dealers, prostitutes, and thugs left West End—or they got out of the crime business.
Jim Summey, along with representatives of the High Point police and other government agencies, is telling the West End Initiative story across the country (including Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government on May 15 of this year). High Point’s program made the front page of the Wall Street Journal and other communities are developing programs based on that model.
So that’s a little of the story. Jim says he’s got plenty more to share, and he invites you to be in touch. You can reach him at 336-870-1114 (cell), 336-887-2626 (office), or firstname.lastname@example.org. Some information in this article came from John Summey and from an article by Bob Burchette in The Guilford Record, December 24, 2006.