The Eastminster Presbytery SDOP Committee
By Rev. Jim Ray
There we sat, only five of our 12 member committee, to hear the application from East Side Voices, a group from the east side of Youngstown, Ohio. Illness and other problems had reduced our number for that important gathering but those five came through in true SDOP style. I have often reflected on what took place following the presentation by the East Side Voices folk. There we sat on one side of the table, with responses coming, one after the other, from the five different cultural backgrounds that make up our committee. As the chairperson, and a white male clergy, I thanked them for their presentation and felt they had an interesting proposal in trying to bridge the gap between high school teen agers and senior citizens in a primarily African-American section of the city. I was appreciative of their approach to strengthen their neighborhood, which has been on the decline. then I waited for my Committees response, as I sat at the head of the table.
As if we had scripted it, the person next to me, an Asian, male layperson, spoke up to say he had a question about one aspect of their application, and then made an offer to send them some material that would enable them to strengthen it. He wanted their proposal to be supported. Next to him sat a Hispanic female layperson, who likewise was appreciative of the application and thanked them for it. Next in line was a Native American female layperson, who also complimented East Side Voices for what they hoped to accomplish. Lastly, was an African-American female layperson, who spoke in support of our Asian member’s idea to strengthen the application. She also mentioned that she lived on the East Side of Youngstown also. Sometime later, as the East Side Voices group was trying to follow up on our suggestion, our committee member, Gladys, said she would meet with them to continue to help them.
We have been blessed over the past few years to have twelve members on our SDOP Committee, this year composed of nine racial ethnic persons, three white persons, with nine of them being Presbyterian. One couple is Native American and one of our Hispanic members has lived in the United States for years, and is very involved in working with Hispanic immigrant workers in Northeast Ohio, where there are some 10,000 of them. Armando submitted, and received, received a grant from our committee several years ago, was asked to serve on the committee, and has been a valuable member ever since.
There has not been anything magic about the numbers of racial ethnic members we have. It is helpful that I, as chairperson, have been involved for more than 50 years in social justice and peacemaking efforts and that means I have always sought ought to be in the midst of the struggles of persons from other cultures. And though we have very few African-American members in the congregations of Eastminster Presbytery, with only one tiny African American congregation, we have been able to find such members from other sources. We live in a very diverse cultural area in the Presbytery, and thus one of our former Committee members, very involved in support ministry with Native Americans, was able to find the couple we now have from that culture.
I’ll never forget that evening when all five of the cultures on our committee spoke up to support a grant application that was coming before us.