ST. LOUIS – Pastor LeSean Tarkington and his wife, Rev. Johnetta Toddle-Tarkington, have been in St. Louis since December. The pastoral couple have wasted no time getting to work fixing the historic Saint Peters AME church and learning their new community.

They have a vision to help change the community by starting within a one-mile radius of the church that sits on the corner of Margaretta and Shreve in Penrose neighborhood of North St. Louis.

The couple says work is underway to install a new air-conditioning unit and boiler. Work slowed down during the pandemic, followed by protests.

Pastor Tarkington says that when things settle down, he wants Saint Peter AME to be the resource the community can turn to for job programs, child care, college prep, and more.

Rev. Johnetta Tarkington says one way they plan to make a change is to show the community the healing presence of God and show it cares through its ministries.

“And hopefully, as a result, violent crime will decrease. The community will show more love towards its own community within the one mile radius and beyond,” said Rev. Tarkington.

She hopes that by taking care of each other, the neighborhood will be safer for children and adults to be in the streets.

Pastor Tarkington met his wife, who is also a chaplain at a local hospital, at a church in California. He’s served in big communities like Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Seattle before moving to Wichita, and now St. Louis.

Pastor Tarkington says one of the first things that surprised him about St. Louis is that there was a full grocery store within the one mile surrounding his church. He says he is still studying the community, but says the people have been welcoming.

“This is a season for partnership, everyone has been called to work together,” said Pastor Tarkington.