Union Doctoral student envisions expansion of role of congregations

The Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964ward campaign is underway and is already making a difference in the lives of our students. At Union, 100 percent of funds that donors designate to scholarships go directly to the student.

Reverend Larry T. Crudup, a student pursuing his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Ethical & Creative Leadership, envisions expanding the role of congregations to leaders of social change through the art of storytelling of the Black experience. In his research topic, “Walk Together Children: Black Congregational Leadership-as-Social Ethic” he is examining narrative leadership and social ethics as a tool for systemic change. Rev. Crudup is the recipient of the Eugene Ruehlmann Fellowship for Public Service, funded by Western & Southern Financial Group and others in honor of the late mayor of Cincinnati, Eugene P. Ruehlmann in recognition of exemplary civic work.

Rev. Crudup of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Oklahoma will graduate with his Ph.D. in 2020. A charter member of the Academy of Preachers, whose mission is to inspire the next generation of young preachers, he holds degrees from Belmont University and Southern Methodist University. He has served several parishes in Texas and is the founder of Ever a Leader, Inc. that advocates and develops leadership for human rights, positive peace, and social justice to improve the well-being of our neighbors at home and around the globe.

Read more about Rev. Crudup and his passion for social change in the Q&A below.

Q. How has the scholarship you received impacted your academic career?

A. My scholarship allows me to stay in school and work toward systemic change in Black congregations to benefit the community and society. For example, my grandmother taught me respect for human dignity through her stories of how she was treated in the workplace. She worked for white people in their homes as a caregiver. She demanded to be treated as a human being, not as a servant. Through her storytelling, she inspired me and others to believe systemic change is possible.

The funds from the scholarship lightened my financial load and allow me to pursue an education that is truly transformative.

Q. Union is known for its commitment to social justice. How will social justice be interwoven in your career plans?

A. Social justice is interwoven in my career as Senior Pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. My church and I are heavily involved in social justice issues ranging from prison reentry and food disparity to death row advocacy.

It is our responsibility to help the transition from prison to community. Almost every Black person knows someone in prison or who has been in prison. It is crucial for the down-and-out to hear the painful stories of others, but also the stories about how they persevered to overcome. Black congregations can be leaders of social change by relaying these stories of triumph.

Obstacles to successful community reentry include access to food, housing, and employment. Plans are underway for a community garden. A master gardener is volunteering his time to help us design a field that will produce affordable and healthy food options. We are working with halfway houses to provide housing and job information. Other areas include the need for grocery stores in underserved areas and the abolition of the death penalty in our state.

Of great concern to me is death row advocacy work, particularly the case of Julius Jones. Julius was a member of this church. He was arrested at 19, served three years before he came to trial, and has been sitting on death row for the last 22 years. I believe he is an innocent man and was wrongfully convicted. I am involved in the fight to free Julius.

To be able to tell your story is human. To relate the struggle of perseverance to your experience of fighting for social justice is never-ending. I am asking Black congregations to be leaders in social justice.

Q. Union’s goal is to transform lives and communities. Can you share how this goal impacts you and your community?

A. My hope is to do my part through raising the social ethic of people and showing them ways not to be complacent. I think mining the stories of the community will lead to training in collective leadership and help us engage the world.

Q. What are your plans after you earn your degree?

A. I will continue as a minister and hopefully a professor. I am passionate about young preachers and will continue to encourage their calling. I hope I will always be a change agent.

Q. When you have free time, how do you relax?

A.I love to watch movies and eat popcorn with my wife and family. I even bought a popcorn machine. I enjoy participating in the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and hanging out with friends. I love to read. The best part of my life is spending time with my wife and my child.

You can learn more about Rev. Crudup and his life-changing work at this link.

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