Pastors at local church tackling racial issues head-on within congregation

News
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MARYLAND HEIGHTS – Grace Church St. Louis has been sitting on the top of Creve Coeur Mill Road for 42 years now. Although racism, social injustice, and police brutality are not new issues, they are finding new ways to approach them within their congregation.

“For us as a church family, if we’re going to be a family, we have to feel each other. That means we weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. So, those honest conversations and taking the necessary time to have them is critical,” said Wes Martin, the Associate Pastor at Grace.

Grace has always embraced and welcomed diversity and it shows through their members and staff. Pastor Martin says around 30 percent of the congregation is black, so conversations around race, equality, and systematic oppression happen and are encouraged. 

“It’s important as me as a white guy to take the necessary time to understand my black friends’ perspective that I don’t get,” said Martin. “I can’t feel their pain, but as I get to know them in dialogue and see their perspective – I can do that.”

Lenny Barber is the head student pastor at the church and is a black man in America.

“I’m dealing with my own emotions right now as well.  I think the problem with, not only myself but especially young black males because that is who I work with, the main problem is helping them navigate an outlet for everything that they’re feeling,” said Lenny Barber, student pastor.

Barber is in a unique position. Not only is he helping teens manage their emotions regarding racism and injustice within the church, he is married to Jenny Barber, a white woman, and raising four children who are biracial.

Their family shared an emotional moment together after all having seen the George Floyd video.

“Our 12-year-old comes up the stairs bawling and literally asks, ‘Is this going to happen to me one day?'” said Barber. “The number one thing for Jenny and me is being that listening ear for how they’re feeling. Us being their parents, we still don’t want to assume how they’re feeling over these issues.”

Barber continued with how he and his wife have had to sit with their kids and discuss how to interact with police. Lenny and Jenny have also had to help their children navigate through the racial identity barriers that can come with being biracial.

Lenny Barber has engaged in open dialogue within his own home, and Grace Church is not far behind. They have hosted Zoom discussions and conferences tackling these tough topics, have invited guest speakers to the church ranging from police officers to social activists, and plan to do more to bridge the gap.

“That’s not only what we do, that’s who we are. We’re Christ followers. We are supposed to be a light in the darkness. Giving hope is the biggest thing for us,” said Barber.

Pastor Martin and Pastor Barber are encouraging anyone in the community who is hurting or in need of someone to talk to during these times to join them for service on Saturday or Sunday. They can connect you to a small group or meet with you one-on-one.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

About FOX 2 News

FOX 2 and KPLR 11 in St. Louis cover the news in Missouri and Illinois. There are over 68 hours of live news and local programming on-air each week. Our website and live video streams operate 24/7. Download our apps for alerts and follow us on social media for updates in your feed.

President Harry Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” That spirit is alive and well at Fox 2. Our teamwork is on display each and every day.

Our news slogan is: “Coverage You Can Count On.” We quite frankly are too busy to worry about who gets the credit. Our main concern is serving the viewer.

We go where the stories take us. Whether it be Washington, D.C when a Belleville man opened fire during a congressional baseball game practice or to Puerto Rico where local Ameren crews restored power after more than 5 months in the dark.

Coverage You Can Count On means “Waking up your Day” with our top-rated morning show. From 4:00 am-10:00 am we are leading the way with breaking news. But our early morning crew also knows how to have some fun! Our strong commitment to the communities we serve is highlighted with our Friday neighborhood shows.

Our investigative unit consists of three reporters. Elliott Davis focuses on government waste, Chris Hayes is our investigative reporter, and Mike Colombo is our consumer reporter. They work in unison with the news department by sharing resources and ideas.

We continue to cover breaking news aggressively and relied on our seasoned journalists to make a difference with the stories we covered. The shooting of Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Connor is just one example of that. Jasmine Huda was the only reporter who had exclusive access to the O’Connor family during his amazing rehabilitation in Colorado.

Last, but certainly not least, FOX 2 and KPLR 11 are committed to covering local politics. We host debates among candidates and have the most extensive presidential election coverage. Our commitment to politics isn’t just during an election year. We produce two political shows that air every weekend.

Popular

Latest News

More News