ABOVE PHOTO: Rev. Dr. Wayne WeatherS, pastor, Vision of Hope Baptist Church in Jenkintown, and deputy coalitions director for faith engagement for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the Biden-Harris campaign.
By Thera Martin
With the November 3, 2020 presidential election now behind us, and a declared winner working fastidiously towards a smooth transition of leadership in American government, an assessment is in order.
Rev. Dr. Wayne Weathers, pastor of Vision of Hope Baptist Church in Jenkintown, is the second vice president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and moderator for the Pennsylvania Eastern Keystone Baptist Association. He is also the chairman of the political action committees for both above mentioned organizations.
Weathers says he’s proud of the role that Black Clergy members who represent small churches in particular played in helping to turn Pennsylvania blue again for President-elect Joe Biden.
“I am proud to say that as this critical presidential election year came [to a] close, I knew without question that every day, after doing my work for God, I would find time to volunteer and help the Democratic party unseat Donald Trump,” Weathers said. “Historically, I recognize that there’s always been some debate about separation of church and state. I get that. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with educating congregants and others from the community about the political process and [to] encourage eligible voters to be engaged.”
“For me, pandemic or no pandemic, I knew I was coming into 2020 working to get qualified, tested and proven, smart government back in the White House,” he continued. “The amazing thing to me is that I was able to help lead an impressive digital campaign for the Biden/Harris ticket, targeting an important group that often gets overlooked by politicians — small Black churches.”
“We did have a group of people that were hired to do safe distancing, door-knocking and in-person contact in targeted residential areas,” Weathers said. “However, largely we accomplished our voter outreach sitting at a desk and using Zoom. Social media saved the day, with online messaging and good old phone bank outreach.” Weathers wanted to make sure that the small churches had a voice at the table.. That said, leaders of some of the region’s larger churches such as Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller, Bishop Millicent Hunter, Bishop Keith Reed, Bishop J. Louis Felton, and Rev. Dr. Lonnie Herndon were extremely supportive of the smaller churches’ outreach effort, he said.
“ Unfortunately, too often in election years, small churches are not thought about,” Weathers said. “Decision makers on political campaigns always get caught up with looking for churches with large congregations. I knew we needed to make sure that medium size churches and small churches were at the table and that women clergy were recognized also. Our congregation members count, and they vote. “
Volunteerism ended up turning into a paid opportunity with the Biden campaign for Weathers.
“Unexpectedly, I ended up being hired by the Biden campaign in August as the deputy coalitions director for faith engagement for the state of Pennsylvania,”he said. “I was actually hired on the day that Joe Biden announced Senator Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate. When I first started volunteering on the campaign back in March, my plan was simply to be a conduit to the Black Clergy because of the work I do with several clergy organizations in the state.”
Weathers created a database of more than 200 small Black churches from across the state and communicated with the pastors of those churches several times a month from March up until Election Day, sharing “Get out the vote”(GOTV) information from the Biden campaign.
Some of the churches and pastors who were involved with the GOTV push for Biden included: Morning Star Baptist Church, Clairmont, Pennsylvania.; Rev. Richard White, Unity Baptist Church, Braddock, Pennsylvania.; Rev. Dr. Richard Wingfield, First Baptist Church Penn Hills; Rev. James Hunt, Bethel AME Harrisburg.; Rev. Ouemonde Brangman, Zion Baptist Church, Reading, Pennsylvania.; Rev. Dr. Bruce Alick, Friendship Baptist Church, York, Pennsylvania.; Rev. Melvin Baber, Celestial Word Ministries, Philadelphia.; Elder Billy Speaks, Tindley Temple UMC, Philadelphia; Rev Robert Johnson, Hickman Temple AME, Philadelphia; Rev. Gregory Nelson, Bethany Baptist Church, Chester, Pennsylvania. and, Rev. Curtis Morris.
“Working with Dr. Wayne Weathers on the Coalition of Clergy for the state of Pennsylvania concerning the November 3rd election was exhilarating, exciting and positive,” Rev. Richard D. White, Jr., pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church in Clairton,Pennsylvania., said. “Dr. Weathers kept us engaged as we sought to meet new people, inform others and seek to reclaim those who were blighted by the racial inequalities of our society.”,.
Rev. Dr. Kevin Aiken also had positive remarks for the way in which Rev. Weathers helped keep small Black churches connected and feeling like a part of the process during the campaign.
“Working with Dr. Weathers during this critical time in our history was rewarding and as a team, we helped get the job done,” Aikens said.
The coronavirus pandemic made in-person political candidates forums, voter education seminars and workshops non-existent this year. However, “Thank God” —as Weathers remarked —, “Digital media made it possible to still reach our targeted audiences at small churches.”