St. Joseph A.M.E.’s New Pastor Believes in Civic Engagement – GDN Exclusive “A Call to Colors” Vol. II, Part XVIIby Cash Michaels, GDN Contributing Writer July 10, 2019
DURHAM, N.C. – He is the 31st pastor of St. Joseph African Methodist Episcopal Church, a predominately black church with 150 years of distinguished history, service to the community, and social justice activism.
Having been appointed to lead St. Joseph’s just last May, “Pastor Jay,” as he is best known, also serves as the national chaplain for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., in addition to being a Silver life member of the NAACP, among many, many other notable accomplishments.
If there are any questions about the devotion of Pastor Jonathan C. Augustine to civic engagement and social justice ministry – what the ordained minister calls his “life’s work” – just pick up a copy of his June 23rd “The Pastor’s Perspective” in St. Joseph’s #SocialJusticeSunday church program.
“I invite you to please get involved in our community’s civic affairs by serving on one of the 43 boards and commissions in Durham County,” he wrote after meeting with Durham Mayor Steve Schewel recently.
He later added, “…with elections approaching, I encourage you to get to know the candidates for local, state and federal office who visit St. Joseph. At minimum, please learn their positions on issues, and vote in every election.”
With a lifelong involvement in civic engagement, politics, civil rights law (he is an attorney), and social justice ministry.
Pastor Jay, during an exclusive interview with GDN in his office on July 1st, expressed both an appreciation and support for GDN’s “A Call to Colors” student civic engagement campaign, which, in partnership with the NAACP, HBCU student government and national alumni associations, and statewide black-elected and civic group leadership, has targeted black students on both HBCU and general college campuses across North Carolina for nonpartisan voter registration, education and mobilization in the lead up to the critical 2020 elections.
“Christian leaders should be involved in preaching the Gospel about the kingdom to come, which is the vertical plane of the cross, but also dealing with inequities in the kingdom at hand, which is the horizontal plane of the cross, ” said Pastor Jay, whose last senior pastoral assignment was Historic St. James A.M.E. Church in New Orleans, La. – the oldest A.M.E. church in the Deep South.
“Any effort that engages young people at a time when they are much like sponges, where they are absorbing information and sharing information, I think is worthwhile,” Rev. Augustine told Greater Diversity News. “I think [“A Call to Colors”] is timely because we’re at a critical juncture in the country’s history [where] we can either go back and regress, or we can clamp down and go forward and progress. So, I think that that initiative is so timely and much so needed.”
He added that given the ultimate purpose of “A Call to Colors,” that he was “110 percent for it!”
Pastor Jay recalls that as a student at Howard University in 1989, he worked on the historic gubernatorial campaign of L. Douglas Wilder, the first African American to be elected governor of Virginia since reconstruction. It was an exhilarating experience that helped shape his civic consciousness.
“So, as I share in a ministry of liberation, I will also be very engaged in taking advantage of the proximity the church’s campus has to NCCU,” Rev. Augustine continued. “Through the fraternity, I am very blessed to have connections on campus there. It’s a natural infrastructure to be engaged with students through the Pan Hellenic Council…” as well as meeting NCCU’s chancellor, alumni who are members of St. Joseph A.M.E. and are “very, very” active with the alumni association.
Pastor Jay also knows Richard Smith, past president of NCCU’s National Alumni Association.
Augustine is also a doctoral candidate at Duke Divinity School, and plans to continue his ministerial outreach there, he vowed. “The time is now,” he adds, regarding St. Joseph being involved in nonpartisan voter engagement.
Pastor Jay is slowly meeting other notables in North Carolina’s social justice movement. However, he hasn‘t yet met Rev. Dr. William Barber, past president of the NCNAACP, and current co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival. The Durham pastor has read one of Bishop Barber’s best-known books, “The Third Reconstruction,” and is looking forward to finally sitting down with his fraternity brother.
GDN Publisher Peter Grear has recommended Dr. Barber’s book for college students for inspiration in structuring their campus civic engagement campaigns.
Rev. Augustine credits his parents, who raised him in the Deep South New Orleans, with his devotion to social justice “my entire life”. After graduating from Howard University with an economics degree, God first called him to the social justice movement through the practice of civil rights law, Pastor Jay says, graduating from Tulane Law School in 2001. God’s “second calling” came for Augustine to become an ordained minister, and He ultimately combined the two.
Now that he’s in North Carolina, Pastor Jay is energized and determined to be a vital part of the social justice and civic engagement fabric here, he assures. His many impressive accomplishments during his young life, lends credence to his continued commitment to moving the community forward.
“I would encourage students…. you never know how things are going to pan out, but you’ve got to participate, you’ve got to be civically engaged, you’ve got to vote,” Pastor Jay admonishes. “No excuses!”
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