An unusual approach at SCOG

Published 10:05 pm Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It’s not all that unusual for churches to take an active role in politics. Whether they mention candidates by name or back away from showing direct support because they’re worried about running afoul of misguided IRS regulations, most leaders of spiritual flocks are not reticent about nudging their sheep toward one political choice or another.

What’s less common is a church where a pastor encourages his flock to actually give all the candidates a fair hearing. Even rarer is one that gives those candidates a venue to be heard.

That’s what has made a couple of candidate forums in Suffolk so special during the past week or so.

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Suffolk Church of God, led by Pastor Aaron Burgess, hosted a mayoral forum on Thursday and then followed up with a forum for candidates from the Whaleyville Borough on Tuesday.

Three of the five candidates running for the office of mayor chose to participate in last week’s event, and they were peppered with questions about a variety of topics — some of which were related to the work of a mayor and city council and some of which, frankly, were not. The answers were, of course, important, but one gets the feeling that those attending were just as glad to have a chance to get to know the actual people giving the answers.

During the Whaleyville Borough forum, all four who are running for that City Council seat got a chance to present their visions for the city of Suffolk.

Happily, both of the forums featured decorum and class, unlike some other political events of the 2016 season. It’s likely that folks left the building feeling as if they had a better idea of how to vote on Nov. 8.

That might be an unusual approach to the nexus of politics and religion, but it seems an appropriate one. Good work, Pastor Burgess.