By Chelsea Blackmon
Married pastors Rev. Clinton Stancil and Rev. Christine Stancil are deeply invested in the betterment of their community, starting with Wayman AME Church in St. Louis, MO. The Stancils’ long-term goal is to represent a productive, well-rounded community and they have been strategic in offering solutions to numerous issues facing their congregants and neighbors.
Rev. Clinton Stancil is no stranger to working at the forefront of social justice issues. His voice was frequently heard demanding for justice for Michael Brown in the wake of his murder by a white police officer. This experience is particularly relevant in today’s racially charged climate.
Environmental racism is another issue impacting the Black community, including in St. Louis. The facts are undeniable, climate and pollution impacts people of color and low income families more than anyone else. There continues to be a need for sustainable environmental practices to address these issues in Black and Brown communities. The good news is that the movement is growing. The bad news
is that growth is not occurring at the rapid pace needed to act on climate.
The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in 2018 sounding the alarm that we have around 12 years to cut carbon pollution so we can reduce CO2 emissions to fight climate change and pollution. This means we have to act now!
The Stancils were disturbed by how distant the topic seemed to the people in their community. “It wasn’t that they didn’t care, it was that they didn’t know,” shares Rev. Clinton. The Stancils took it upon themselves to educate their congregation, understanding that they would have to lead by example.
After receiving the Growing Green Solutions Seeding Funding from Green The Church and The Nature Conservancy, the pastors began to make environmentally conscious improvements for their church. Because the church is substantially large and historical within the community, it has been difficult for them to get approved on the upgrades they want to do to the church. But they have begun to seal
windows and doors of the sanctuary to conserve energy.
The Wayman AME Church takes up a city block, so zoning for energy conservation is up next on the list. Then they are looking to add solar panels to meet power needs.
The Stancils are also invested in the food justice movement, a grassroots initiative emerging from communities in response to food insecurity and economic pressures that prevent access to healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate foods. Prior to COVID-19, Wayman AME was able to provide fruits and vegetables from community gardens in the meals and groceries they gave to the members of their community.
During the quarantine, they have partnered with other nonprofits to deliver groceries to 45-50 families a week. They also have been providing meals for seniors who have been at risk during the pandemic, so they won’t have to leave the house.
The Stancils are also working for housing justice, a movement that asserts everyone deserves housing that allows them to live with dignity, regardless of income level. When it comes to their goals for the surrounding community, Rev. Christine has been working for three and a half years to turn the property next to the church (that they own) into a senior living community to address the needs of many of their older church members. The vision is to provide a home that is close to the church, affordable, and encourages an active lifestyle. Unfortunately, this project is currently on hold as a result of red tape with the local government and the pandemic.
Rev. Clinton Stancil and Rev. Christine Stancil have also partnered with Barnes-Hewish Hospital to focus on mental health within their communities, working to become a safe space for their members during hard times. Prior to school shutdowns due to COVID-19, they worked with the St. Louis school district to create after-school programs for at-risk students.
While COVID-19 has prevented in-house worship services, the pandemic has clearly not been able to stop the efforts that Wayman AME Church has taken to serve the surrounding community. The Stancils have even given out laptops to members of the church to help them with education and streaming online worship services.
Rev. Clinton Stancil and Rev. Christine Stancil are aware of the impact a church can have on the surrounding community and it is evident in how they intentionally approach their work. Teaching environmentally sustainable practices by applying them to the church is a great way to lead by example. Though there have been obstacles to addressing all of the problems faced by the community, it is clear that the Stancils won’t stop until they achieve their goals.