Chattanooga AME Church Growing Stronger Year After Pastor was Stabbed to Death over Lurid Allegations
A pastor stabbed to death amid lurid allegations of drug use and sex might be enough to destroy a church. But Chattanooga's St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church is healing and even growing a year after pastor David Strong was found slain in the parsonage.
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The two accused in his death, cousins Antonio Henry and Brendan Barnes, are scheduled for a Monday hearing.
Henry has told police that Strong smoked marijuana with them and then demanded sex before his Oct. 10, 2010 death.
St. Paul's new pastor, the Rev. Kenneth Love, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/t1VckR) the church makes no comment about Strong's private life. He said he only knew Strong to be a hard-working pastor who loved his congregation and community.
"It's caused a lot of pain, but there is also a healing process because we do believe that God can take care of anything," Love said.
Love, whose father is a former pastor at the church, said he's been leading St. Paul AME to focus on the community.
In the past year, the church has added Internet service for use by community members, restarted its youth mentoring program and begun transportation services to help people attend church.
Love is also continuing the programs Strong implemented or led. Those include the Daughters of Darcus, where young women and girls do community service work for seniors and children, and the Nehemiah Nation, where the church's men help with community as well as church-building projects.
And the congregation -- which includes 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper, who gained national attention after being denied a voter ID card -- will start a voter registration drive for the elderly in November. The church also will offer transportation to the polls.
On an October youth-day a year after Strong's death, about 70 people filled the sanctuary as the red-and-black-attired youth choir sang "Get Ready for Your Miracle" and then "He's Able."
Love preached from the book of Habbakuk and admonished his congregation to remember their own vision for life, to write it down and make it plain.
People complain when they focus on present circumstances, he said, but when they remember the overall vision of where they're going, they can rejoice.
SOURCE: The Associated Press
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