From the Rev. Danny Trapp, executive director at MeckMin:
In the midst of asking ourselves, Does Charlotte still need MeckMin?, gunfire rings out in Charleston and 300 gathered at a community forum in our city to talk about race, violence and the future. MeckMin hosted the forum. We’re organizing a summer’s worth of continuing conversations across the city. After Emanuel AME Church, the answer is clear: Our city, and far beyond, desperately needs an interfaith coalition devoted to bringing us together.
These are challenging financial times for MeckMin and many other small nonprofits. Frankly we’ve had some staff turnover that slowed our momentum. But the turnout at the forum, and people’s obvious hunger for conversation, inspires us to focus on our cause, knowing that there is work to be done.
MeckMin, formed as Mecklenburg Ministries in 1987, had as its original mission “to be an interfaith advocate for compassion and justice within our community.” At the charter ceremony, then-City Councilman Richard Vinroot said, “Mecklenburg Ministries will succeed because it is too good a concept not to.” Those in attendance that day responded with a hearty “Amen.”
Early member congregations were Roman Catholic and Protestant, white and black, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, tall steeple and rural. In 1995, the first Muslim masjid was welcomed. MeckMin now includes 95 communities of faith and organizations representing 12 religious traditions. In addition, countless individuals have been plugged in through their congregations or on their own because we stand for something they want to be a part of.
Throughout our 28 years, MeckMin has navigated pitfalls that are typical of nonprofits. We’ve done this during a dynamic time in Charlotte’s history, which has seen our community evolve from largely Christian into a New South city richly diverse in culture, gender and sexual identity, religion and more. MeckMin has been on the front lines of these changes, working to build bridges across our differences.
Today we brand ourselves as MeckMin, our long-time nickname coined by one of our founders, the late Sydnor Thompson Jr. We are not so much a ministry as an interfaith network of houses of faith and individuals working to foster understanding, compassion and justice. We do this in a number of ways including our Food for Thought monthly lunch program on social issues; In Our Own Backyard summer youth camp; BridgeBuilder book discussion groups; free weekly noon meditation, and the annual citywide interfaith Thanksgiving service. This year, we’ll celebrate the 40th anniversary of the service on Tuesday night, Nov. 24, at one of our city’s most historic African American churches, St. Paul Baptist. Giving thanks together. Is there a more sacred thing to do at the holiday?
After Charleston, the importance of our mission has magnified.
Our gathering at Belk Chapel at Queens University of Charlotte was called More Than A Vigil: A Community In Conversation For Healing And Change. The agenda was simple. There wasn’t one. It was an opportunity for everyone there to be heard, maybe for the first time. In the wake of Ferguson, Baltimore and now Charleston, we need this more than ever. With the high-profile trial of police officer Randall Kerrick coming up in Charlotte, a reconsideration of the city’s discrimination policy, local elections and more, we must communicate. Each Monday night this summer, MeckMin will present We Need To Talk: Community Conversations For Healing And Change. The next dialogue is at 7 p.m. June 29 at the Jane M. Smith Memorial Chapel at Johnson C. Smith University. Look to www.meckmin.org for details on upcoming gatherings.
It seems almost mundane now to talk about our challenged bottom line, and the need for additional funding. There are prayers to share, conversations to have and hatred to be eliminated.
Does Charlotte still need MeckMin in 2015?
In this difficult summer, the community is offering an answer.
Reach Trapp at firstname.lastname@example.org.