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Compassion and Community in Detroit3 min read

Rev. Dietrick Gladden came back to Michigan in the middle of a pandemic to serve as the District’s Missionary at Large at both Mount Calvary and Charity in Detroit. In a recent podcast, he talked with Jeff Heisner about the ministry that is taking place in and around the two congregations. Here are the highlights of the conversation.

Both Mt. Calvary and Charity, Detroit are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year: Mt. Calvary has been in its location for 100 years, and Charity for 75. Celebrations are underway or in the planning stages. But Detroit’s East side is rough. So is the West side. Some of the struggles that people have are financial, some have to do with housing or health, and some have to do with addiction. The pandemic had a heavy toll on the financial and mental health of many in the community and, according to Gladden, some people are still struggling with going back to work or just with communicating with others.

Gladden’s main focus is to establish connections and build relationships with the community in order to learn where the needs are so he can bring the Gospel to people where they are at. For this purpose, he rides along with police officers, gets together with other pastors in the area, and hosts townhall meetings at the church. He also looks for community resources—there are many in Detroit through the local universities and other organizations.

When asked about the two congregations, Gladden refers to the work that each is doing in its own community: Mt. Calvary is the host site for Camp Restore Detroit, an organization that partners with local agencies and neighborhood associations by identifying needs and then hosting volunteers who come to do service projects in the Ninth Precinct. These projects include blight removal, house maintenance or building, planting trees, creating community gardens, building parks and playgrounds, and others. Charity has a non-profit (Charity, Inc.) which works with house rehabilitation. They are also working on making connections with a local school, and recently re-established their iCan program, in conjunction with LSEM, to help children who struggle in school.

Both Mt. Calvary and Charity are involved in programs that aim to foster good relationships with youth. At Mt. Calvary, the Detroit Behavior Institute (DBI) is a juvenile program that brings about 20 youth to the church on Tuesday nights for a mentorship-style program in which Gladden and other local pastors participate. At Charity, the gym is used for a similar program, called Cease Fire: every Thursday night, police officers pick up youth aged 14-18 and drop them off at the church. There, mentors play basketball with the youth and feed them afterwards. Because of these relationships, when these kids get in trouble at school, the same officers already know them and are able to redirect them.

Needless to say, all of these relationships and connections have the ultimate goal of bringing the hope of Jesus to communities that are hurting. Mt. Calvary and Charity are being the hands and feet of Jesus where they are planted. If you would like to participate in their ministry as a volunteer, visit https://michigandistrict.org/volunteer/ and you will be contacted by Gladden or another worker.

Photos by Elisa Schulz/Michigan District, LCMS

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This blog was published by the Communications Department of the Michigan District, LCMS.

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