Several years ago, I began to develop a vision for how we as a faith community are called to be intentionally engaged throughout all sectors of the city in order to connect and love our neighbors as Jesus calls us to do. I began to deeply hope and pray for a unified faith community coming together to rebuild a city spiritually, socially and economically. This was scripturally influenced by God through Jeremiah‘s writing that if you seek the welfare of the city, your welfare will be taken care of, along with the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem found in Nehemiah. It all became more concrete as I was nearing the end of my theological studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and was selected to participate in “Oikonomia” (economy), a two-semester internship sponsored by the Kern foundation, which focused on the intersection of faith, work and economics.
This introduction into how the faith community can be engaged in ministry through the private sector, along with my previous experience in commercial real estate, led to a series of conversations with real estate professionals in Lexington, KY and Memphis. Upon my return to Memphis, I was invited to visit with Larry Jensen, President and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield/Commercial Advisors LLC, regarding a real estate services/development platform focused on core city neighborhoods where blight and disinvestment is the primary trajectory of all properties including residential, multi-family, commercial and industrial.
I prepared, at Mr. Jensen’s request, a concept proposal outlining an endeavor that would seek reconciliation and transformation through real estate services/development. The creation of a commercial real estate team focused on the city core, especially underserved and blighted neighborhoods, would work to bring revitalization to communities throughout Memphis with passion, thoughtfulness and entrepreneurship in relationship with the larger faith community already actively engaged at the neighborhood level. Built within this plan is the core belief that spiritual and economic flourishing is possible and can be nurtured across the neighborhoods of Memphis through an ‘asset based’ restoration plan involving commercial and residential properties. The holistic nature of this approach recognizes that specific needs, including safety/security, personal health, education, family health, and community connection, vary in degree throughout the city and can be addressed by creatively utilizing assets already existing within the neighborhood.
In response to this proposal, I have been offered and have accepted a position at Cushman & Wakefield/Commercial Advisors LLC as Executive Vice President of Community Investment effective November 1, 2014. This new service line represents a social entrepreneurship model that will bring life to this envisioned concept through a leading commercial real estate platform that is well connected to the private, public and faith community leadership of the city.
While I will be leaving the staff of CUMC, our family is committed to ongoing service as faithful members of Christ United Methodist Church through the giving of our time and resources. I plan to complete the requirements for becoming a local licensed pastor through the United Methodist Church and will continue coordinating Congregational Care projects such as ‘Hearts For Hospitality’ and ‘Helping Hands Ministry’, as well as teaching a Sunday School class in 2015. This new opportunity simply represents a shift of focus to pastoral ministry in the marketplace which will hopefully be viewed as an extension ministry of Christ Church where God has matured our faith into action.
We are incredibly grateful for the encouragement and support of Christ United Methodist Church and thankful to have returned. You all truly represent our extended family and I look forward to continuing to grow, serve and care alongside each of you.