The Collective Empowerment Group, established in 1993 as the Collective Banking Group, has grown from 47 churches to more than 200 religious leaders. In the last three decades, the pastors in the organization have gone from store fronts and warehouses to massive sanctuaries. Now many churches have established community development corporations and have started a variety of businesses.

George C. Fraser, the Rev. Bobby Manning and the Rev. Midget Parker speak to each other at an annual conference for the Collective Empowerment Group. (Photo by Hamil Harris)

“Our churches need to be about empowering people and that is giving them the tools and skills to help them along the way,” the Rev. Bobby Manning, pastor of the First Baptist Church of District Heights, Md., told attendees at an annual empowerment conference on April 7. He said he likes to host events at laundromats in his community in an effort to connect with people.

Manning’s sentiments are shared by the Rev. Harold B. Hayes, pastor of Hunter Memorial AME Church in Suitland, Md. Hayes said one of his top priorities is building a bridge of communication and understanding between Blacks and Latinos in Suitland. “When we talk about Suitland, the Latino population is rising and what must take place is Black and Brown coming together,” Hayes told attendees, “We have to learn to bridge the gap and be intentional. Couple that with literary and there is no stopping us.”

Both Manning and Hayes were at the Ministry Center of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden on April 7 where the needs of people in their pews were front and center.

“It is my vision that the church has to lead the charge when closing the income gap between Blacks and Whites in America,” said George C. Fraser, founder and CEO of FaserNet and The Black Wealth Alliance, organizations focused on providing the Black community with training and tools to sustain intergenerational wealth and empowerment. Fraser was the keynote speaker for the conference entitled, “Creating Legacy.Com.”

“It is imperative that the Black community, driven by the Black church, transform who we are as a people and the only way that we can do this is collectively,” the Rev. Jonathan Weaver, pastor of Greater Mount Nebo A.M.E. Church in Bowie, Md., who also attended the conference, said. Weaver added that in the era of President Trump Blacks must do more for themselves.

While Weaver and other pastors transitioned from preaching in retail big boxes to multi-million edifices, the Easter season brings with it a rebirth for church leaders to do more to empower their members. “One of the last bastions of hope is the church,” said the Rev. Anthony G. Maclin, pastor of the Sanctuary at Kingdom Square in Capital Heights, Md. “Churches have to come together so that we can raise the conscious level of our people.”

The Rev. Midgett Parker, a lawyer and minister who helped coordinate the conference, said “This is about churches needing to come together to be able to uplift all of our people this is about helping people to help ourselves.”