- Faith & Family
The first thing you will probably notice about Rev. Clifford H. McKinney, Sr., 61, pastor of Hurst Chapel A.M.E. Church, is his smile. It has been that way his entire life.
And over the past three years as a pastor, his smile and warm personality are the reasons behind him being known as the “friendly pastor” amongst the West Perrine community.
“I smile and talk to everyone,” McKinney said. “I don’t care who you are, your social-economic level, whether you’re a drug user or a drug dealer, I’m gonna talk to you.”
He uses his friendly spirit that he has picked up from his parents, as he leads his church and evangelizes in its surrounding community.
McKinney’s neighborly outlook is present in the church’s mission, which is to “preach and teach the new command” McKinney said quoting, John 13: 34-35, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Hurst’s main missions
Some of the top priorities at Hurst Chapel are: reaching out to people who are not attending church; serving people — especially children who have parents or other family members who are incarcerated; and helping stop crime and drug trafficking in the Perrine area by having a presence in the community and developing programs to help the South Dade community.
One of the initiatives the church has in mind is a computer center, which will hold computer literacy classes for senior citizens and also language classes for everyone. McKinney said he believes it is important for adults and children who reside in Miami to learn Spanish or Haitian Creole/French.
“I think we need to learn [different languages] in terms of business and in terms of education,” he said. “Some businesses will only hire you if you’re bilingual.”
McKinney, who has succeeded in business as a leader at different financial services firms before retiring, is now a full-time pastor.
Putting the Bible
“The street ministry is the most important thing in my life,” McKinney said.
This is evident through his visibility throughout the community. He spends 10 hours a week going around speaking to people and passing out booklets about God.
“That’s the job that God has called every pastor, minister and all the people in the church to do,” he said, quoting Mark 16:15, which says, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
McKinney said he has noticed that the amount of people inside the churches on Sunday is the same as the number of people outside of the church.
But he has noticed a response to his efforts of evangelizing and reaching out to the community, he said several visitors have stopped by his church.
He plans to have more of his members, including young people, join him in community outreach, by using his same sociable approach.
“A smile tears down any wall,” he said.
By Malika A. Wright