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Ferguson churches hope new center will serve as an 'incubator' for justice

Rev. Steve Lawler of St. Stephen's Episcopal and Rev. F. Willis Johnson Jr. of Wellspring Church teamed up to organize a week of workshops at Wellspring ahead of the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown.
courtesy Open Road PR

Updated Mon. 8/3/15 at 11:45 a.m.

Two Ferguson churches are teaming up to create an "incubator" for racial and economic justice. St. Stephen’s Episcopal and Wellspring churches are launching the Center for Social Empowerment and Justice with a week of workshops leading up to the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown on Sunday, Aug. 9.

The center will be on the Wellspring campus and provide programming space for several nonprofits dedicated to supporting education and small businesses, including the Ferguson-Florissant school foundation, the Ferguson Youth Initiative and Incubate Ferguson, a business-minded venture started by Rev. Steve Lawler of St. Stephen's Episcopal and the Vine.

According to Rev. F. Willis Johnson Jr., the center will be staffed in part through AmeriCorps volunteers for the next three years.

“We wanted and needed a place that was about building self — not only self-sufficiency but self-reliance,” said Johnson, pastor of Wellspring Church, describing the center as a place that “would hopefully encourage and affirm various forms of action and engagement, whether that be political or social, and then that would aid in helping people develop enterprise.”

Johnson said the center further defines the role his church has played in Ferguson since last August.

“We’re just continuing the experiment and experience that was a part of a year ago where we were having national conversations, gathering the leading thought-provokers and faith and other social thinkers into dialogue and into action,” Johnson said.  

Workshops this week introducing the center will include discussions with academics, ministers and entrepreneurs.

Johnson said the Center for Social Empowerment and Justice will also be home base for scholars and artists-in-residence on a revolving basis.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.