It’s been no surprise to Rev. Julius D. Jackson that, when some members of Salem United Church of Christ have found he’s accepted the position as pastor of an all-white congregation, there’ve been some eyebrows raised.
In fact, according to Jackson, it’s part of the reason he’s made it his goal to bring more diverse members to the church.
“My goal is to have the church be effective, and to me that means being a church of the community, not just in the community,” Rev. Jackson stated. “So, whatever that takes to bring more voices into the church, that can effectively do ministry, it’s not a one-man show. Just having a black pastor in there can’t help with having black, or people of color, from the community. I don’t know all of these issues, and I shouldn’t be expected to, so that means I should bring some other folks to the table as well.”
Jackson grew up in Rochester, and, prior to accepting the position at Salem United, at 60 Bittner St., he was senior pastor at East Aurora Christian Church, which, according to Jackson, had a similar membership to Salem’s.
However, as the son of the late Rev. Julius D. Jackson Sr., former pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church on Joseph Ave., Jackson said he realizes the importance of creating a membership that reflects the entire community.
“My dad’s church was Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, which is two streets over almost, on Joseph Ave.,” Jackson stated. “So, I have no problem getting out into the community. I want the community to know who I am, and the place where I reside, and, that the place I reside is a welcoming place, and a resource. I think, over the years, that has diminished; the fact that it’s a place where people can come, and find refuge, and sanctuary. A church should be a spiritual resource; that should be first and foremost. That is something that has diminished over the years, and I don’t think people realize that we’re there.”
As a result, Jackson said he’s currently joined the mayor’s Clergy on Patrol initiative, a program in which pastors and police officers have joined forces to patrol the community, in an effort to make a positive connection with city residents.
In addition, he’s also hoping some of the minority community members who’ve attended the church’s better-known nutrition program, which offers complimentary meals on Mondays and Tuesdays, will begin to learn more about the church’s ministry as a whole.
“We have a nutrition program that is multicultural,” Jackson stated. “Some people think Sunday morning is the ministry, but, it’s really not. It’s what we’re doing outside of worship that I think is the greater focus. So, what is the challenge is to get people to realize that there’s a greater challenge outside of the church, and also getting us known.”
Consequently, Jackson said, during his time at Salem, which he’s currently accepted as part of a six-month trial period, he hopes to expand Salem’s reach into the community.
“Ministry takes place outside of that Sunday morning service,” he stated. “Sunday morning is important, but there’s a lot that needs to go on during the week; ministering to the community, and being of the community, and not just in the community. It’s a huge edifice over there, but, half of the week, I’m in there by myself. I think that space could be used for a lot more than just me in my office. There’s the space that has the nutrition center, there’s the basketball court there, or stage; it’s just being able to tear down some of the barriers, so people see Salem as a resource in the community, that is for the community. So often, we can find ourselves in the club mentality, and we are just serving ourselves, and not serving what’s outside. And, that’s the mission of the church; it’s not an island.”
According to Jackson, he’s not sure what his future at Salem will bring; however, whatever it may be, he said he hopes to make a difference in the community, and to help the church become a more well-known resource in the community of Rochester.
“My hope is that Salem will become Rochester’s church, basically,” he stated. “And, anything that happens in Rochester, that people would first seek out Salem. And, if Salem wouldn’t do, then they would go to other places. Whatever ministries develop to get us there, I have no clue right now what those will be. Yet, I’m hopeful that, as other people come to the table, we will learn that together. Like I said, it’s definitely not a one-man show.”
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