For some people, going in circles is a maddening thing. For Cary resident James White, it’s a blessing, especially when a full circle includes time with Mississippi civil rights leader John Perkins.
Perkins, the author of nine books, was in Raleigh for a weekend of conversations about race, starting at Raleigh’s Christ Our King Community Church on May 20.
White was working for Campus Crusade for Christ at Howard University in 1986 when he met Perkins. Today, White serves as the pastor for Christ Our King. It’s as though the good work that Perkins started with White 20 years ago circled back to begin again.
“Perkins’ life and legacy are a part of our church’s workmanship,” White said. “I never thought he would be in our church.”
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Perkins drew on current events to drive home his main point: the gospel is the unifying force that bridges the gaps in race, money and culture to create a common bond where true reconciliation can begin.
“Black lives matter shouldn’t be a question,” Perkins said. “God says all human life matters.”
The gathering was what Perkins hoped could happen when he wrote “Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development,” published in 2013.
“The more we understand and respect across lines of culture and ethnicity, the more we will be able to bring together people of all races and cultures into the one worshiping body of Christ and to develop the communities in which we live,” Perkins writes.
The weekend of events was sponsored by several churches, including Christ Our King, Jobs for Life and other community groups. The group included people from all walks of life, crossing boundaries of age, race and culture.
“I have good news. Reconciliation is happening here,” said Perkins.
Completing another circle
While White never imagined Perkins would be a featured speaker at his church, he also didn’t imagine he would become a church pastor.
White earned a bachelor’s in sociology and political science from East Carolina University in 1983. White, his wife, Cynthia, and children moved to Cary when he served as a member of the teaching faculty at the Communication Center.
It wasn’t until 2004, when White and his wife began leading Bible studies, that the idea to form a church started. As the gatherings grew, friends started suggesting that they Whites start a church.
James White explored going to seminary and putting his years as a consultant to faith-based organizations into practice.
When it became clear that the degree wasn’t as important as his passion, the couple worked with a core group of believers to form Christ our King Community Church.
The church started meeting on Sunday afternoons at Peace Presbyterian in Cary about 12 years ago.
“We thought if people were willing to come to church at 1:30 on a Sunday it was a confirmation of God’s calling,” said James, who is 55 and also is the executive vice president of organizational relations at The YMCA of the Triangle.
White implemented a four-phase strategy for growing the church: a calling, confirmation, construction and celebration.
With each step of growth in the church, White has circled back to the beginning step to ensure that God is calling him to continue.
A dynamic atmosphere
The church moved to its current location on Garner Road about six years ago. It’s hard to imagine that a dynamic metro church meets inside the gray warehouse.
The first time I came to an event at the church, I drove past the building. When I turned around and parked in the lot, with weeds popping up through the cracks in the pavement, I still thought my GPS was playing a trick on me.
I give the description because I don’t want you to miss the opportunity to be a part of Christ our King. The church saves money on the building, which allows it do more for the community.
I first attended an event at the church last fall. At “Lessons From Ferguson,” a group gathered to hear from three panelists from Ferguson, Miss.: Pastor Ken Jenkins, Bishop Calvin Scott and Jerome Jenkins, owner of Cathy’s Kitchen.
The discussions that day explored the response our community could have to a shooting involving a law enforcement officer by outlining a three-step approach that included being intentional about building authentic relationships.
In February, when the headlines were about a Raleigh police officer who killed a man named Akiel Denkins, White was prepared and didn’t hesitate to respond. Christ our King is within walking distance of the scene where the shooting occurred and helped with outreach efforts.
“We wanted to meet the need and be a part of the healing,” White said.
Watching White move easily from his role at the church to his role at the YMCA is inspiring. He lives out the church philosophy that we should not come together on Sunday if we are not coming together politically, economically and socially the rest of the week.
Liza Weidle is a freelance writer and a communications specialist for the YMCA of the Triangle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ Christ our King Community Church meets at 10 a.m. at 1500 Garner Road in Raleigh. For information, go to cokcc.org.
▪ John Perkins is the president of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation. For information on Perkins and his work, go to jvmpf.org.