Today at a lunch event for MCUTS students, Marlon Foster, pastor of Christ Quest Church and founder of Knowledge Quest, shared his story of incarnational ministry in the South Memphis neighborhood where he grew up. Foster told how after two of his close friends were killed in the neighborhood, he began to have a vision for the community that his grandparents moved into in the 40s. Today, Foster “lives, works, and worships” in that same community. Foster shared with MCUTS students how becoming a church that welcomes the marginalized comes with its own sets of challenges, but also about how they have embraced the community in all of its beauty and complexity. One of my favorite stories was simply hearing how Christ Quest has had an open community breakfast every Sunday that has invited neighbors to eat together whether they attend church or not. They also celebrate a full meal following their monthly communion services. Instead of a soup kitchen model, where the members provide food to the economically poor, Christ Quest follows in the footsteps of the early church by welcoming all to a common table together. Such simple, community oriented practices have led to the establishment of a church made up primarily of residents from the immediate neighborhood, many of whom were un-churched or de-churched before they found Christ Quest.
Foster also shared about Knowledge Quest’s incredible community programs. While KQ began as a tutoring program, today their Green Leaf Learning Farm and Universal Parenting Place projects bring together young and old alike to invest in their neighborhood. I have personally benefited from the programming at UPP and have been blessed by getting garden tips from one of Green Leaf’s senior gardeners (although my neighbors will know my garden’s got a long way to go!).
In the Church & Community Development class I teach at MCUTS, we talk about John Perkin’s 3 R’s: Relocation, Redistribution, and Reconciliation. Marlon is one of those heroes in our city who embodies Perkin’s ministry philosophy. He has become one of my heroes, and I’m so grateful that he came by to inspire some of our MCUTS students today.
(The pic to the right is from a playground build that Marlon led that some of our Church & Community Development students got to help out with)
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