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Patrick sits down with local black preachers

Howard Manly
Patrick sits down with local black preachers
Gov. Deval Patrick (center) met with more than 100 preachers from across the state on Saturday at the Eliot Church of Roxbury. In attendance were the Rev. Evan C. Hines, pastor of Eliot Church and one of the meeting’s organizers, the Rev. William Dickerson, and the Revs. Thomas Hughes and Thomas Cross. “It was right on time,” Patrick said. “They wrapped me in the veil of prayer and I can’t stress enough the power of unity.” (Photo: Office of Gov. Deval Patrick)

In an unprecedented show of unity and support, about 100 African American preachers — representing 40,000 church members across the state — met with Gov. Deval Patrick last weekend to underscore the need to combat common problems.

Chief among the problems are curbing urban violence, reducing the achievement gap in public education, adding more jobs to create greater economic wealth and working together as a whole rather than as individuals.

Organized in part by the Rev. Evan C. Hines, pastor of the Eliot Church of Roxbury, Patrick administration senior advisor Charlotte Golar Richie and Ron Bell of the state Office of Community Affairs, the Saturday morning meeting inspired participants to return to their communities with a renewed sense of purpose.

The Rev. William E. Dickerson, pastor of the Greater Love Tabernacle, said the meeting was very positive.

“It was historic,” Dickerson said,” because it was the first time in modern history that a Massachusetts governor met with the black clergy to talk about faith — and within that context, we could talk openly about specific issues such as jobs and education and violence.”

Dickerson said the days of pastors working alone are over.

“Each of us is doing our part in our own individual neighborhoods, but we need to be able to share our successes and failures in a non-judgmental way in order to improve the entire state,” he said.

In attendance were pastors of churches from Springfield, Brockton, Fitchburg and New Hampshire.

Thomas Hughes, pastor of the New Antioch Community Church in Portland, N.H., said he was quite pleased with the commitment of men of faith to come together in a unified way.

Equally impressive to Hughes was the governor’s willingness to discuss his deeply ingrained faith.

“That was very obvious from his brief remarks to us,” Hughes said. “He stood up and spoke from his heart. He didn’t refer to his notes and talking points that his staff had written for him. But Governor Patrick talked about his own personal journey.”

The Rev. Thomas Cross was also in attendance. As an overseer in the Church of God in Christ, Cross represents about 70 churches in New England.

“Governor Patrick is our brother,” Cross said. “We might disagree with him from time to time, but we wanted him to know that we have his back.”