Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Ferguson, Mo. minister to discuss social justice and racial understanding

Ferguson, Mo. minister to discuss social justice and racial understanding

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Lycoming College invites students and members of the Williamsport and surrounding communities to hear the Rev. F. Willis Johnson, senior minister of Wellspring Church, speak on social justice and racial understanding, on Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Clarke Chapel on the Lycoming College campus. Johnson garnered national attention for his leadership role in his community’s response to the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, who was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo. in August 2014.

Johnson is best known as the senior pastor of Wellspring Church, a predominantly African-American, intergenerational United Methodist Church in Ferguson. He recently released his book, “Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community” to provide pastors and church leaders with practical guidance on how to address injustice within their congregations and communities, and how to better lead others to do the same.

Johnson created The Center for Social Empowerment, an organization dedicated to theologically based reflection, exploration and education on social and racial justice matters as a result of his time spent in Ferguson. He has served in professional ministry for more than 15 years in Indiana, North Carolina and Missouri. His work has appeared in Time Magazine and The Christian Century, among several other publications. He has also been featured numerous times on NPR, and took part in the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture’s symposium examining the topics of community activism, race and justice.

Johnson was educated at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He is currently the Vosburgh Visiting Professor of Ministry and Social Engagement at Drew University in Madison, N.J.

Johnson will be meeting with a small group of Lycoming students prior to his presentation. According to Jeff LeCrone, director of spiritual life and community service, Johnson’s visit to campus could not have come at a better time.

“We began planning this event before everything that recently happened in Charlottesville. Now, it’s become that much more pertinent to have something like this here on campus,” said LeCrone. “Many people have never had a way to develop a relationship with, or have a conversation with, people that are different from them. The focus of this presentation is going to be talking about race — it’s an important thing for us to be able to do in ways that are productive rather than inflammatory.”

The presentation is sponsored by the Office of Spiritual Life and Community Service, and is free and open to the public.