2001-01-19 Grand Rapids Press King's example motivates pastor's ministry efforts

King's example motivates pastor's ministry efforts
Grand Rapids Press

More than most reflections of Martin Luther King Jr., this week there is something personal about the Rev. Andres Fierro’s remembrance. Nearly 10 years ago, the Holland pastor had a lengthy, personal chat in Atlanta with Coretta Scott King, King’s widow.

He has a autographed book to prove it, but for Fierro, the experience, and his interest in the civil rights martyr has always been much more than simple hero worship.

“I asked her a lot of questions I had from reading between the lines of King’s books, but I wanted to know if history has reflected a true portrait of Dr. King,” said Fierro, pastor of Crossroads Chapel.

“I remember asking her what disappointed Dr. King the most. She told me that what really depressing him was the lack of clergy support to rally behind him. He felt abandoned by them,” Fierro said. King has been a model in Feirro’s own ministry, in the church and the Holland Community.

“I have not tried to live vicariously through King, but what he meant to me has been more solidified over the years. King was first of all a pastor. His theology unified his vision and his passion for humanity,” he explained.

Fierro observed that, in general, clergy and churches today need to regain that vision King proclaimed, by being sacrificial in their question for truth with a spirit of courage.

He added Holland need to see more of that courage, especially now

“The city is just beginning to open itself to a communal understanding,” Fierro said, explain that seeing community in its growing diversity is a start. However, he contends its residents, particularity it spiritual leaders, have to be willing to be “sacrificial” in how the church acts out its faith.

“Dr. king was a modern day prophet. But today’s clergy need to be more priestly, modeling forgiveness, reconciliation and spirituality. The pastor who knows the community will lift up those without a voice as their spiritual leader,” Fierro said.

That voice and that leadership may come as pastors participate in the upcoming Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, schedule for Feb. 13 in Holland on the Hope College campus. The event is being organized through the combined efforts of the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony, the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, Latin Americans United for Progress and the African American Support Group.

Underwriting the daylong summit are: Donnelly Corp, Holland Community Hospital, Hope College, The Image Group, James W.F. Brooks and Macatawa Bank.

Fierro, who has served on the leadership committee for the event, said the summit should be seen as the beginning of a long road toward healing racism wounds in the community.

“The value will be in how we maintain unity,” he noted. “But what is critical is that the community hears the voices in a real and honest dialog. It is important that the church first listen.”

Too often, Fierro said, churches want to jump in with solutions driven by a “fix-it” mentality.

He urged, rather, that clergy and lay church leaders take the time to listen to those most affected by past injustices.

What the church can bring to this dialog is the biblical vision of the kingdom – a city where all nations, tribes and tongues will be one.

“People say the future is shaped by our past and present,” Fierro said, “but as Christians, our gift is this: that our vision of the future can shape who we can be in the present.”