Detroit Neighborhood to be Second Bezalel Site

The Bezalel project in Dolton, Illinois, has trained local residents and developed new affordable housing.

DETROIT, MI (June 28, 2017) – The Covenant’s decision to make this city’s poorest neighborhood, Brightmoor, the second site for the denomination’s Bezalel project, will be a huge boon to the community, said Semmeal Thomas, pastor of City Covenant Church (CCC).

City Covenant will partner with the Covenant on the housing project, which helps a local congregation purchase distressed properties, rehab them, and then rent the homes at affordable rates. The project also hires community residents and teaches them job skills.

Bezalel is named for the person Moses appointed to build the ark of the covenant and tabernacle as well as teach artisan skills (Exodus 35:30-35).

The pilot program in Dolton, Illinois, a suburb just south of Chicago, has been a huge success, say project leaders. Since it began last year, nine homes have been renovated, eight are occupied, and the church just closed on its thirteenth home.

The change in the community has been so dramatic that local homeowners who had put their houses up for sale pulled them off the market because they had newfound hope for the neighborhood, said Lance Davis, pastor of New Zion Covenant Church in Dolton.

The work was recently highlighted in a Companion cover story, “Partners in Community: No Place Like Home.”

Cecilia Williams, executive minister of Love Mercy Do Justice, announced the Brightmoor decision last week to delegates at the 132nd Covenant Annual Meeting, which was held in Detroit.

Thomas said Brightmoor is the poorest neighborhood in the city and possibly all of Michigan. Thirty-nine percent of the residents live 200 percent below the federal poverty level, he added.

“There is overwhelming need for quality affordable housing managed by companies of godly integrity,” Thomas said. The church hopes to start the project by August 1 and will probably begin with “five to seven homes.”

In addition to benefitting families who will be able to move into the new homes, the project also will help the church increase its ministry. Thomas continued, “Without this project, it would be nearly impossible for a small church in an underserved community like ours to help provide housing and more in-depth job training. People’s trust in us also will grow.”

Thomas said he was excited that the program focuses on developing people as well as the community. “Collectively as Christians we control billions of dollars, and the majority of our focus on poverty is primarily on relief. But that creates dependency, while building our own spiritual self-esteem at the cost of others.”

According to Thomas, the more holistic approach of pursuing development can enable long-term solutions. “I strongly agree with Dr. John Perkins that, fundamentally, poverty is a justice issue and we serve a God of justice.” The Bezalel project is done in the pursuit of justice, he said.

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Stan Friedman

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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