Clergy of the Month:
Reverend David Wright
Grace Tabernacle Church of God in Christ,
1745 Pacific Street
Reverend David Wright is the son of Reverend Timothy Wright, a world-renowned gospel musician whose music was nominated for a Grammy award. Four years ago, at the age of 30, David was installed as pastor of Grace Tabernacle Church of God in Christ after his father passed away due to complications from a car-crash that killed his mother and nephew. Reverend Wright carries on his father’s legacy, having imbibed his love of gospel music and dedication to community engagement.
How did you get involved with S.O.S.?
Pastor Kevin Jones got me involved. When I heard about it, I said, I didn’t just want to be a pastor that stays in between my four walls. That’s the main problem with some of our churches today, we don’t see what’s going on outside.
My father once told me a story that his pastor, Bishop Washington, had told him. Bishop Washington was an awesome man of God, who preached around the world. Once, he went out of town and visited a church whose pastor was there for 5 years. The pastor wanted to drive him around the neighborhood, and the Bishop said, let’s walk. So they walked for blocks around his church, visited several stores. After about 2 hours the Bishop said, “I have to let you know, that I have to remove you from this church. We just walked around your neighborhood for 2 hours and nobody knew your name or your church. Nobody knew anything about you after 5 years.” That story resonated in my spirit. That’s part of why I got involved with S.O.S.
What motivates you to do anti-violence work?
I got involved with anti-violence because, as one of the young pastors in the neighborhood, I can relate to some of the issues that our young men have in the streets.
I grew up in East New York, Brooklyn. I went to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and two teenage boys, brothers, got shot and killed at the high school that I was supposed to go to. The week before they got shot, they were in my house playing Nintendo. They were 17 years old. I was in junior high school at the time, and I cried that I didn’t want to go to the high school where my friends got killed.
I’ve seen a lot of my friends cut down, shot and killed. In the late 80s, when the crack epidemic took Brooklyn by storm, we lived in the projects and they would smoke crack in the basement of my building. You’d see it everywhere. When you’re in the midst of that violence all the time, you can’t avoid it.
My five brothers and I all grew up in East New York, and the only reason we didn’t get caught up into the crime and gangs like some of our friends is because we had a big faith-based family. We’re not perfect; my brother sold guns and drugs, and ultimately got incarcerated. When my father saw that he said, I can’t lose all my boys, so he moved us to Long Island. We got out just in time because between the ages of 13 and 17, that’s when you can really change kids’ minds.
The message I want to push with the youth now is: when you have God in your life it gives you hope. The streets can’t give you a hope for eternal life. You can get the quick easy money in the streets, but longevity and long life and hope comes through God.
How have you been able to reach the youth?
Basketball is a tool that I’m using to get these kids. I can’t go out with a bible, but when I come at them with a basketball, I can get in with them. It’s been working really well. We have a Grace Tabernacle basketball program for teens, 17 and under. I’m the assistant coach, and we have gym time on Saturday from 11am to 5pm, all year round.
Before we play the game we first say a little prayer, and check their grades, and do a little tutoring. We always ask what’s going on; most of the kids aren’t violent themselves, but somebody in their family or around them is, and it affects them. So we minister to these young men on how avoid going down that road to violence.
There are two twins we work with who are 15 years old. Their father is a drug dealer, and he’s trying to get them to sell drugs too. Their mom came to us and said, “I don’t want my kids to get stuck out there.” So every Saturday we go to their home in Far Rockaway and pick them up; we get to them before their father can get to them. Now they’re in the basketball program and come to church every Sunday. They come with jeans and t-shirts on but I tell them it’s fine, as long as they’re in the right place. And I thank God for them. They’re good ball players, but we’re just using basketball to get them off the streets.
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