Pastor Brandon Bowers: Charleston City Service Project

September 29, 2017: As Charleston Rotarians well know, Mayor and former Rotarian President John Tecklenberg is never short on coming up with or adopting new ideas that can improve our beautiful city!   When Mayor Tecklenberg introduced our speaker at Tuesday’s meeting, we learned that one of his newest endeavors is “borrowed” –a program started by the Mayor of Boston.   

Both of our cities have been impacted by heartbreaking loss and violence and both have been international models of how our citizens came together to demonstrate strength and healing through unity and love.  The Boston Mayor’s idea to more formally incorporate Boston’s outpouring of sentiment and expression in all of the city’s policies resulted in the creation of a Boston Council of local Clergy.   

This resonated strongly with Mayor Tecklenberg and so, a few months ago he created our own Charleston Council of Clergy comprised of the leaders of our city’s faith community.  These leaders from all faiths, denominations and perspectives, express the values of local faith-based populations to pressing city issues.  In applying this model to Charleston, Mayor Tecklenberg will focus the Council on the critical issues of homelessness, improving the quality of life for Charleston families, and promoting faith, love and unity as a keystone in the Holy City. 

One member of the Council of Clergy was our speaker, Pastor Brandon Bowers. “Pastor Brandon” is head of the Awaken Church which is located in North Charleston and has a new location in Summerville.  Pastor Brandon graduated from the College of Charleston in 2000 and attended the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, graduating with a M.A in Missiology.   After 10 years of serving at various churches, Pastor Brandon felt the call to return to Charleston and in a few years turned the concept of Awaken Church into a reality, with an active and growing membership. 

Like all of Charleston, Pastor Brandon was devastated by the tragedy of the shooting at Mother Emanuel Church three years ago but was struck by the aftermath of how Charleston came together to demonstrate community unity.  He was deeply inspired by this unity; how, over 72 hours, multiple churches came together at prayer meetings and rallies and how 3500 gathered in Marion Square in an inter-racial and inter-denomination expression of unity and love.  In Brandon’s mind, from these public demonstrations of love emerged a common denominator – “the desire to do good.” 

And so a question began to take form in Brandon’s mind:  what if we all came together to “do good”?  What if we designate a specific time during which hundreds or thousands of Charlestonians come together to help our fellow citizens through participation and support for existing programs and projects designed to “do good?”  

And so was born Charleston Love Week, a period of time scheduled from December 3-9, during which 30+ non-profit organizations hope to come together to get 10,000 hours of community service through 3,000 volunteers.  Pastor Brandon looks at Charleston Love Week as a very public celebration of actively and visibly expressing our love for our city and for our neighbors…..making a difference in Charleston through “doing good.”    

Pastor Brandon understands that support for these kinds of ambitious undertakings is necessary at the grassroots level so he was also at our meeting to ask for Rotarian leadership and support in three ways:  1) leadership by influencing publicity and public participation; 2) leadership by giving time to the planning of and by personal volunteering in the project ; and 3) leadership by giving money.   

To recognize the success, achievements and joy of Charleston Love Week , organizers are planning a citywide celebration held on Sunday, December 10th, in Marion Park. 

Pastor Brandon believes that Charleston Love Week can grow into an annual event that gives every Charlestonian the opportunity to be involved in existing, proven projects that have transformative impacts on Charleston citizens’ lives.  He also hopes that the resources, talent and enthusiasm in Charleston’s Rotary Club and its dedication to Service Above Self will join together with other supportive organizations to make Charleston Love Week a national model and demonstration of unity, generosity of spirit and cooperation to support a community’s citizens. 

And so an idea to form a clergy advisory group from our sister city of Boston has found its way to Charleston and has already produced from one of our Council of Clergy’s members a city-wide project.  Shared between city mayors, among the Clergy and through citizen support and participation, appreciation and opportunity for “doing good” will only improve Charleston’s daily quality of life and sense of unity.  

Thanks to Pastor Brandon for his inspiration and leadership!  Stay tuned for details of Charleston Love Week and think of how you can best contribute to this ambitious and worthy opportunity to “do good.”

Cheryl Kaynard, Keyway Committee