Community and the Church: a look back with Rev. Charles Heyward
The Rev. Charles Christopher Heyward Sr is a two-time CTS graduate receiving both his Master of Divinity (1988) and Doctor of Ministry (1994) degrees from the institution. In 1996, Heyward became the pastor of St. James United Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C. founded in 1866 after the Civil War.
During his twenty-year role as senior pastor, he created the St. James Foundation, where he organized and purchased property for what is now the church’s Memorial Garden and the future home of the Gullah Gechee Cultural Center, became a founding pastor of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry and started local middle school mentoring initiatives. He retired from St. James in 2016.
Throughout his call, Heyward continued to dedicate his time, talents and efforts to not only improve but strengthen the community he loved, the church.
As we take time to examine, reflect and strive for better in our own communities of faith, it’s crucial that we acknowledge our differences and be open to making improvements for all.
After learning more about Heyward’s work as a doctorate student at CTS, I discovered that his 94’ dissertation discussed research about community and the church, still worthy of consideration 25 years later. I’ve outlined a few components from his Local Congregation: From Black to White dissertation below.
- The true church is the people of God people who are diverse in their cultures and history, diverse in their faith and belief, diverse in their traditions and rites and diverse in their worship and praise. As a human community, it is often rather difficult to see diversity as different rather than deficient (one superior to the other).
- It is in “the doing” that our faith becomes activated. Talking may suggest that one has “knowledge of” but the doing gives proof to whether the knowledge is right or wrong, good or bad, true or false, weak or strong.
- Knowledge serves no benefit if it is not shared with the larger community.
After his retirement in 2016, Heyward was featured in the Post and Courier, voicing the same tone of importance for diversity within faith communities.
When asked, What can the faith community do, especially big churches like St. James, to address pronounced racial disparities in education, health, criminal justice, employment and other areas? What is the church’s role? Heyward responded with the following:
Often when it comes to the issue of race, the question is: “What can the faith community do?” The question is asked, presupposing that the faith community and “big churches like St. James,” are doing nothing. Nothing can be further from the truth.
“Pronounced racial disparities in education, health, criminal justice, employment and other areas,” are not created by the African-American community. These are the historical and continuing conditions created for us. If they did not exist, the role of the church would be unnecessary. Racism and the spirit that “Black Lives Do Not Matter,” are alive and well. That being said, there is a role for the church.
The church must expand its public education programs to include opening new charter schools, encouraging members to seek elected positions on local school boards and organizing to keep elected officials accountable. Programs of nutritional and preventive health at early ages within our churches’ health ministries are important (and) participating and becoming involved in advocacy as the Charleston Area Justice Ministry.
In 1994 when Heyward prepared his research reflection, he stated that his final project “has prepared me to make what I believe is an important contribution to the African American community, on the one hand, and to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on the other.”
The Rev Charles Heyward Sr, a faithful, imaginative and effective leader for the church and the world.
Chassidy Goggins works to enhance and support the needs of organizations and high performers through digital marketing and media communications. She does this because she believes collaboration and innovation, coupled with strategy, are key in propelling people with vision forward. She currently serves as the Media and Marketing Coordinator for the Center of Lifelong Learning and enjoys the space it gives her to combine her faith and professional background to further the Great Commission. Her hobbies include spending time with her family, traveling, writing, searching for bakeries and binge-watching her favorite movies/shows on streaming services she vows to stop paying for.
Heyward, Charles. The Local Congregation: From White to Black. 1994. Columbia Theological Seminary, Ph.D. dissertation.
Image. 1988 Class Composite. https://cts2.cuadra.com/star/findingaids/ColumbiaTheologcialSeminaryGraduatingClassComposites. Original held at C. Benton Kline, Jr. Special Collections and Archives, Columbia Theological Seminary. 26 Feb 2020 https://cts2.cuadra.com/star/findingaids/ColumbiaTheologcialSeminaryGraduatingClassComposites
Parker, Adam. (2016) The Rev. Charles Heyward. Available at: https://www.postandcourier.com/features/arts_and_travel/the-rev-charles-heyward/article_f7d56520-fcdb-532b-8d38-087df9df6c34.html (Accessed: 26 Feb 2020).