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CB17 Clergy Meet to Tackle Homelessness, Adoption And More

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With the goal of broadening the discussion of community issues, and bringing new ideas to the table, Community Board 17 will be hosting a clergy forum later this month. The forum will take place on February 23 at 7 p.m. at the New Life Tabernacle, Avenue D and Utica Avenue. CB 17 Chairperson Michael Russell said that the goal was to shine a spotlight on a range of matters, such as the homeless, foster care and adoption, as well as dealing with gang activity. “If we can get a meeting where officials, the community, the churches and everyone can have an honest discussion, that will go a long way,” he contended, adding that the difference in perspective could bring a fresh approach to dealing with ongoing problems. “They probably look at things in a different way from how we look at them, and they can probably enlighten us on other areas,” Russell noted. “Members of the community,” he added, “may have questions. More heads are better than one.” The board, said Russell, has a list of 50 or 60 different churches within its catchment area. “I don’t know if they will all attend,” he remarked, “but we can have a discussion, I think, that will be positive to the community. I think they are not using their facilities the way they could be used.” Reverend Terry Lee, the pastor of the Byways and Hedges Youth for Christ Ministry and a member of CB 17, spoke enthusiastically about the project. “Indeed,” he remarked, “clergy do play a vital role in the community. We have seen where people are more frequently willing to come to clergy for advice and counseling based on the situation they are going three. The church becomes a center of hope for those who are hopeless in the community.” Among the areas where Lee said the clergy could make contributions are dealing with domestic violence, gang issues, relations between the police and the community, immigration issues, and the homeless. In these areas, he contended, “Government can only do so much.” In issues of violence, he said, “You can’t fight an evil spirit with a machine gun.” Dealing with youth, he added, is crucial. “We have got to speak to them,” Lee urged. “We have got to show them a better way.” The homeless, too, can turn to the church to find succor. “There are churches who really serve the community and open their doors to the homeless,” he remarked, adding, “A word of hope can empower them to get their lives together.” The subject of immigration is an especially important one in a community which is inhabited by so many immigrants, Lee pointed out. One issue that he said had to be dealt with is a “lack of unity among the Caribbean community.” This, he said, creates a, “Void. We are not getting the help in the community we ought to get.” That, however, Lee opined, could be corrected, “If we as a community come together. The church can help to bridge that gap, and the gap between government and the community.”

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