Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

God’s Church

Jyrekis Collins

The Black church- an enduring community, in a white world; full of fear, doubt and uncertainty. A church born from slavery- an alternative narrative, speaking to what Christianity should be in these yet United States of America. The Black church- not only is it the people’s church, but God’s church.

As I begin my final year at Yale Divinity School, I am delighted to be part of this exciting project of reimagining church for the 21st century. This work is important and in many ways imperative to my sense of call, understanding and love for the church of Jesus Christ. I come to this Reimagining Church project because of a sense of responsibility; a responsibility to the work of the church in today’s world, ensuring that the church will indeed be the hands and the feet of Jesus, for those who are oppressed and marginalized in our world. It is interesting that I have been called to work with a historically African American baptist congregation, in light of the fact that since being at Yale, I have done my own personal work as it pertains to knowing what it means to be Baptist, and more specifically, what it means to be an African American Baptist. For me, this work is imperative, and I intend to ensure that the Black church is represented properly through this project.

Ultimately, I came to the Reimagining Church project because it brings together two loves of my professional life. The love I have for research projects; the forever student in me- and the love I have for learning about peoples stories; the faith leader in me. I am interested in knowing more about what makes Black congregations unique in the communities they are often placed in, and now more than ever this question is important in light of gentrification of Black neighborhoods all across America. What is the role of the Black church? In addition, there are individual stories of teachers, doctors, lawyers, caregivers, mothers and siblings, who make up these vibrant and historic congregations. The Black church, has historically been a safe haven for Black people, who have been oppressed by the systems of white supremacy in the American church and American society more broadly. I come to this work with the hope that this reimagining process will be fruitful for other congregations who are interested in imagining better tomorrows.

The future of the church is ultimately tied to the future of the community. I am optimistic about the church. While I am optimistic, I am concerned about whether or not the church will dare to reimagine what God created the church to be in our world today. God created the church to be a city upon the hill, to be able to adjust in the midst of uncertainty. The work of the Reimagining Church project, I’m certain will present great challenges, however I am optimistic about this deep and necessary work.

I am so excited to be partnering with the Community Baptist Church(, a historically Black congregation in the beautiful metropolis of New Haven, CT. Community Baptist Church on Monday, March 10, 1945; at the time a small group of parishioners; assembled in the parsonage of the Immanuel Baptist Church on the corner of Chapel and Day Streets to discuss the possibility of establishing a new church. These few individuals had fresh vision, that God had need of them to do more work in the city of New Haven. The church’s vision is “to be a caring Christian community committed to becoming an oasis of hope that empowers people to live by their faith and transform their communities.” I am excited to see how this project can greater inform the vision of this great church. This is indeed God’s church.