Highland Participates in EmpowerWest

Churches coming together to sing, but also to begin an honest conversation about the plight of West Louisville was the agenda of our first EmpowerWest.

Highland members joined other friends and made new friends at the Wednesday evening gathering. Local media reported on the event.

The congregation’s pastors will continue to meet and mobilize members in specific ways so that we can understand the issues and listen to God’s Spirit as we dream of ways to move forward.

The following is a reflection on EmpowerWest from Cheryl Davis.

Robert and I decided to attend this event, held at St. Stephen Church on 15th Street, at the last minute and are so glad we did! Along with folks from St. Matthews Episcopal, Crescent Hill Baptist, Broadway Baptist and several others, we joined several hundred members from St. Stephen in the beginning of a new partnership and dialogue that has the potential to bring about transformation across our racial and socioeconomic divides.

Empower West Louisville came about as the pastors of these congregations, including our own beloved Joe Phelps, have been meeting and dreaming for many months about how we all might join together in the cause of economic justice and equality.

The evening began with powerfully upbeat music by the St. Stephen Choir. Following a few introductions, Dr. Kevin Cosby, pastor of St. Stephen, shared some opening remarks. During those few minutes, I realized that this suburban, white, middle-aged woman has much to learn about the realities of life for my brothers and sisters in the urban community located west of 9th Street. Cosby said he has been serving in West Louisville for 37 years and it has never been worse that it is at this moment. He confessed that he had nearly come to the point of giving up, but this new initiative has rekindled his hope for better days.

Cosby and a panel of the participating pastors then had time to dialogue about their interest in promoting economic stability and growth in West Louisville. Cosby cited some mind-blowing statistics during the discussion, but the one that is sticking with me is that following the Civil War, blacks accounted for about 1⁄2 of 1% of America’s wealth. Now 150 years later, they still account for only 2% of American wealth. There is much work to do!

Following a beautiful closing chorus, the gathered assembly was encouraged to attend and mingle together at a “marketplace” in an adjoining hall, where West Louisville business women and men had set up booths and were selling their wares. We were also urged to sign up for lunch and book clubs, where we could meet and spend time building community with our black brothers and sisters.

We will undoubtedly build on this first, historic gathering to find ways to encourage one another along the way. We have books to read to educate ourselves. We have internal work to do in our perceptions about what it’s like to live and work and shop in West Louisville. As Joe said in Sunday’s sermon, it’s not about us vs. them. It’s about us together with them in the work of Love. May it be so.