By Rev. Dorothy S. Boulware, Special to the AFRO

The Rev. Heber Brown III is using his birthday capital on social media to provide experience for young people interested in Pleasant Hope Baptist Church’s brand of urban ministry. During a tenure that has spanned almost 11 years, Rev. Brown has expanded the reach of his church from providing gospel lessons in the words of the master, to gospel lessons in providing affordable, healthy eating through church farming, to gospel lessons in educating children in their own African-American history, to providing gospel lessons in being good citizens on earth.

With all that brewing, Pleasant Hope is currently renovating one of its properties to house four young adults who want a taste of real ministry to incorporate into their collective of learning to assimilate into their own ministries when the time is right. Known for his whole-hearted involvement in the totality of life from education to politics, from activism to demanding justice,  Dr. Brown is the person for such an experience.

Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III at the family land of 5th generation African-American cotton farmer, Julius Tillery in Garysburg, N.C. (Courtesy Photos)

And that’s why he recently asked his FaceBook friends to contribute to that renovation for the Young Adult Residential Fellowship Program rather than to trinkets for his birthday.

“I’m so excited for these young people to walk their vision while learning ministry and discovering their own gifts and abilities,” Rev. Brown said. “We’re meeting their concerns around basic needs so they can focus fully on their development.”

And the entire congregation has the same focus, thanks to the Christian Education Department that provides the basic teaching; thanks to the preaching and total reinforcement from all areas.

“Our intention is to provide great synergy through preaching and teaching that sensitizes our members to the incarnation of the gospel…doing as we see Jesus do in his ministry,” Rev. Brown said.

“This also incorporates the use of graphics, our bulletins and newsletter, sending one message so we’re in total agreement.”

And so that everyone can be involved in their own unique way.

“We provide many on ramps so the non builder can still support the building ministry and the non gardener can still support the gardening ministry.”

Dr. Heber Brown, III pauses for a picture after providing the keynote message at the Virginia Farm To Table Conference. (Courtesy Photo)

This pastor, teacher, innovator is not waiting for old age to institutionalize the work he’s begun.

“Our prayer is to attract five star administrators, event planners, to cast vision for big dreams that evolve as the day to day work gets done and goes off right and well,” the sought-after teacher, preacher said.

His ministry also attracts great volunteers. That’s how Pleasant Hope operates its Orita Cross Freedom School whenever public schools are closed. Modeled after the freedom schools of the 60s, this one is also the product of many partnerships.

“We are so blessed by the many people who resonate in various ways with the work we’re doing. We started with a core group of mothers who needed support for raising their children, so they worked together to support all the children,” Rev. Brown said.

“And became a super resource.”

This is how each of their principal ministries began, with the recognition of a need.

“Pleasant Hope Garden. The Freedom School. The Black Church Food Network. Each began with a core team, expanded with the development of leadership around each area; we put resources to it and then cast vision,” he said.

“Sometimes there’s an overlap, but each team is squarely focused on its own area.”

Now his vision is being cast well beyond the walls of Pleasant Hope.

“I’m speaking in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio. I’m headed to the Tidewater area next month and also doing some work in Jackson, Mississippi.”

He’s also adamant that church work their chosen project as a member of a church team or cluster.

“Ministry is too hard to do alone. Team work makes it easier and prevents reinventing the wheel,” Rev. Brown said.

“Churches have resources. They have houses, land, buses. The question is how we can be better stewards with what God has already given us.”

People can help in a number of ways:

  • Offer expertise as electricians, plumbers, builders, renovation experts, etc.
  • Pray.