By MAY LEE JOHNSON Tribune Staff Writer
2:50 AM EST, March 4, 2011
SOUTH BEND -- He believes prayer can change things. That's why he's asking for prayers for TAP. The Rev. Gilbert C. Washington, pastor of St. Paul Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in South Bend, is the new president of TAP, or Transforming Action through Power.
Now more than 3 years old, the faith-based TAP is a grass-roots group whose mission is to train leaders as the group addresses such issues as low educational attainment, poverty, inadequate health care, violence and limited civic engagement.Washington has been involved in TAP since its birth and becomes its second president, succeeding the Rev. Chris Cox, who moved out of the area.
"I'm pleased that the members of the board chose me as the new president," Washington said. "It's a good position to have and I'm going to do everything I can to make an impact on the community and the organization."
He said a priority is making certain TAP has "staying power.""I'm talking about building an economic base and continuing to develop our leadership and new leadership," he said.
Training residents to become leaders, he said, "is one of the most important roles as a community organizer ... and one of my primary responsibilities is to oil the wheel so we can be more efficient and effective."
Some 16 churches are supporting members of TAP. Washington wants to bring new churches on board.
He also wants to expand TAP's “base and the scope of our work so its impact is felt throughout the state. One of my primary concerns is to work effectively with other organizations.”
Issues TAP has taken up in recent months include its work to keep the LaSalle Branch of the St. Joseph County Public Library open and its objection to the proposed Arizona-style immigration bill currently in the Indiana General Assembly.
Juan Escareno, executive director of TAP, said Washington is perfect for the presidency of TAP.
“He has been with us since our infancy,” Escareno said. “What we like is his commitment to the organization, and he's been a strong voice for justice. More than anything else he's more than willing to listen to all sides and what he doesn't know he's not afraid to ask. That is a great quality for a leader.”
Washington, 56, was born in East Chicago, Ind., and raised in a one-parent home by his mother, although he said he was surrounded by three wonderful women: his mother, sister and grandmother.
He fondly recalled his grandmother holding court in the backyard — and all the while he would be listening.
While she and others talked, he said, “I sat on a bench and learned from folks in the community.”
Washington graduated from Indiana University with a major in history and minor is psychology. He received his master's degree in pastoral theology and counseling from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
He met his wife, Laura, in Divinity School. They are parents of two sons, Christopher and Carl, and a daughter, Morgan.
He's been a member of St. Paul's church since 1984 and its pastor for 11 years. He served as chaplain at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center for 24 years.
Washington believes TAP can make a difference but not without help.
“What I would ask is for your prayers for TAP as we work to develop strong relationships among diverse leaders from a wide range of congregations dedicated to build common ground and improve our quality of life,” he said.
“Because what affects one of us directly, affects us all indirectly.”
Staff writer May Lee Johnson:
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