“They’re the most underrated group of men in a community,” Senator Harold Hughes said in an interview soon after he came to Washington this year. The former Iowa governor, a Democrat, was referring to Negro pastors. Hughes spoke out of his experience as a licensed Methodist lay preacher and as governor, which gave him the opportunity to study first-hand Negro living conditions in his state’s few sizable urban centers. “It was my sad duty to inform a convention of Negro ministers of the murder of Martin Luther King,” he said. “I was speaking before them when the news came.”
Evidence is impressive that what the senator said would be readily confirmed by responsible police officials around the nation. An analysis of ghetto nitty-gritty most likely will show that when the going gets roughest, the men and women preachers—especially those of the storefront variety—are the policeman’s best friends.
Storefront churches, often housed in a vacant theater or an abandoned store, are common in inner-city areas across the nation. Most are small, with twenty to 200 more or less regular attendants. But, spotted as they are where crime generates crime, their cumulative effect is a force any city would sorely miss if it were suddenly withdrawn.
In some cities, such as Washington, which now has a 70 per cent non-white population, black clergy groups organize along police precinct lines. By reckoning with their limitations, they are able to get practical results instead of being stalled on grandiose never-to-be-reached designs.
As Kenneth Dole, veteran religious news writer for the Washington Post, described the Second Precinct Clergymen’s Association, it has concerned itself “not with some particular project but with the general improvement of ...1
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