The Rev. Tyrone Fowlkes believes in young people, and that even those who have suffered significant trauma in their lives can become leaders for a new generation. He’s working to make that happen.
As director of spiritual formation for UCAN, a CHHSM ministry that has served Chicago’s youth since the 1860s, Fowlkes’ mission is to provide a positive experience for troubled young people that leads to an awareness of identity, purpose and service to others.
He also believes CHHSM can be a crucial partner in working toward that goal.
Fowlkes, who serves Church of Our Savior in Lincoln Park in addition to his work with UCAN, says that spiritual leadership does not have to be confined to the traditional role of heading a church, and that CHHSM can provide pathways for those who wish to lead or serve in many capacities.
“We are all doing good work, but we need to be more intentional about engaging in dialogue and sharing best practices,” says Fowlkes, 42.
According to Fowlkes, UCAN ranks high in youth leadership development and is leading the way in using spiritual resources to heal trauma in youth.
Fowlkes encourages fellow CHHSM leaders to use UCAN’s strengths.
“Likewise, other CHHSM partners have strengths that we lack," Fowlkes says. "And I see my ongoing work as identifying ways that UCAN can partner with other CHHSM agencies toward the greater call of social justice.”
In addition to helping create partnerships between members, Fowlkes says CHHSM could be instrumental in helping seminarians understand the need for skill sets beyond "theological insight, visiting the sick and preaching on Sunday morning."
"Future leaders will need skills in networking and community organizing in order to effectively speak to the needs of local communities," he says.
Fowlkes notes that today’s economic challenges have made more people aware of the impact of health and human services. He says that CHHSM has more opportunities than ever before to work with non-UCC agencies to help raise up community advocates in rural and inner-city neighborhoods.
“We should be training persons who could best advocate among their own family members, friends and neighbors to access the health and human services necessary to keep their neighborhoods strong and viable,” he says.
Fowlkes says it is this challenge, and the needs of the community he serves, that keep him most energized.