The Rev. Larry Pickens hopes Sunday is not the only day he can preach a message of love and togetherness to a group of people outside of his congregation.
Pickens, pastor at Southlawn United Methodist Church in Chicago, will be a special guest pastor at Sycamore United Methodist Church Sunday for Human Relations Day. Human Relations Day is an annual event in the Methodist church that takes place the Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day and encourages relationships with each other and God.
While it is a special opportunity for Pickens, the pastor said he hopes to take his message Sunday and spread it in Washington and across the nation as he pursues the congressional seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr.
“The message of the sermon [Sunday] is how to build relationships and look at what we’re called to do as people of faith to work together to create peace in the world,” Pickens said.
It’s a message he said the nation’s leaders need to hear and one he is eager to share. Pickens said he has always had a sense of community service, whether it was serving as a pastor, utilizing his law degree to defend those in need or speaking up in the political realm.
Harlene Harden, associate pastor for Sycamore United Methodist Church, said Pickens has always displayed leadership and courage throughout the years she has known him. She said Pickens even challenged the Methodist church in one instance, defending a pastor who was dismissed from the pulpit after marrying a same-sex couple, which is not allowed in Methodism.
“I think he saw society changing and want to promote the inclusion of all people. ... The church is slow to change,” she said of Pickens’ decision to defend the former pastor. “We’re not looking in your closed bedroom door here. Do you have the right to walk in the church? Absolutely. Do you have the right to worship God? Absolutely.”
Those groundbreaking efforts are one reason Pickens received the blessing of his congregation to pursue a political seat. As a clergy person, Harden said it is a difficult choice for a congregation to willingly sacrifice time with its leader, but it shows the faith members have in Pickens.
Pickens said Sunday would still be all about Human Relations Day and he is focused on reaching out to more people and gaining an understanding of the realities people face in Sycamore and DeKalb.
“We are a very connected church,” he said. “I think people want to be engaged with the church. A lot of people are searching for something and the church has the potential of offering them that.”
Harden said Pickens is another example of the interesting and compelling speakers the church attempts to bring in year round. Bishop Zothan Mawia, a pastor from Myanmar, was a guest speaker last year.
While Pickens does not bring the same international flare, Harden said she is excited for one special aspect Pickens brings.
“I love men who wear bow ties,” she said with a laugh.