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Wilbert Holcomb, Guest WriterThe two main subjects of the church's recent bad press are 1) numerous vacant buildings owned by Shiloh and blighting our neighborhood, and 2) allegations--raised from within--of a pastor who's failing his flock. The Pen marginally addresses the first subject matter and does not address the second subject matter.
Any Washingtonian listening to the news lately has likely heard of the troubles of Shiloh Baptist Church concerning four of its properties along 9th Street, NW, the block on which the 143-year old church has resided for 83 years. It’s true that these properties have been in deplorable condition for too long, and no one disputes the church’s responsibility for their upkeep, but ANC member, Alex Pedro [sic] does Shiloh and the Shaw community a grave injustice when he calls the properties a symbol of the church’s failure to support its community.
Where were Mr. Padro and the news cameras when Shiloh was reaching out to Shaw residents displaced by gentrification? Where were they when the church was ministering to troubled youth, the homeless, the unemployed, senior citizens and former prisoners? Shiloh’s regular outreach efforts rescue the homeless, feed the hungry, care for the sick, enhance education and actually make life worth living for individuals the government doesn’t always reach.
Shiloh’s Outreach Ministry and its Family Life Center Foundation execute programs daily on behalf of the people of Shaw and the greater Washington area. Church/Community Partners Against HIV/AIDS provides workshops, outreach, referrals, counseling services and city-wide prevention events.
Teen Mothers Take Charge offers teen pregnancy prevention and support, health workshops, counseling, case management, recreation and academic and medical referrals. The Shiloh Child Development Center supplies academic instruction for preschoolers and after-school care for children ages four and beyond. The Male Youth Enhancement Program provides academic support, college fair sponsorship, recreation, counseling, values clarification and tutoring.
Human Services delivers direct financial assistance to individuals and families in need of rent, medical care, transportation, burial costs and crisis counseling. Shiloh debutantes sponsor a scholarship and character development program for girls. The Shiloh Deaf and Hard of Hearing Outreach Center provides daily social programming and support to deaf clients, including transportation, recreation and field trips.
The Senior Citizens Club furnishes advice and counseling on pertinent issues such as medical insurance and residential property tax. The Shiloh Brotherhood of Men provides employment advice, health care seminars and financial counseling. The Social Justice Ministry addresses an array of socioeconomic problems, including youth violence and dropout prevention. It highlights effects of the rapidly changing face of the Shaw community and supports the Urban Housing Alliance in protesting the lack of affordable housing that forces long-term residents out of our community.
Shiloh’s history in the Shaw community is a rich one, but you would never know that from the recent news reports. Although repair of the boarded up buildings was admittedly long overdue, Shiloh’s support for the community is as strong as ever and the needs of the people are greater than ever.
I don't think Commissioner Padro or anyone has claimed that Shiloh has not done *any* good in the Shaw community, so the rundown of the church's activities seems needless. And it is presumptuous and incorrect to infer that Commissioner Padro and others have not, likewise, been watchdogs for and aid-givers to those in need. Furthermore, Shiloh seems to define narrowly who the Shaw community is, notably continually leaving out its actual neighbors.
I think that Shiloh's vacant buildings do indeed serve as monuments to the church's ineffectiveness and failures. No one within Shiloh seems to acknowledge the numerous missed opportunities the vacant properties represent (and continue to represent, given how much the church expends in taxes and city-forced repairs). The vacant buildings' ominous, looming presence serves as a reminder to all of the church's attempts to thwart new businesses such as Queen of Sheba and Vegetate. Finally, the vacant buildings represent years and years of empty promises made by church leaders to the media.