“The practice of my faith is very important to me,” says Pastor Ennis F. Tait. “It has always helped me maintain my composure and keep alive my hope.”

Tait grew up and lived most of his life exposed to and confronted to racism. Learning the true history of his African American people and realizing how often his race had been intentionally subjected to destruction could have made him easily angry, vindictive and prejudiced. Instead he always made a point to remain responsibly positive and to look at things in a different light.

“Compassion and being non-judgmental are very important in order to embrace all peoples, religions, races…” he says. “We have to get rid of our implicit and explicit biases and not allow hatred, even when justified, to poison our hearts.” To which he adds, “We are all invited to become part of the body of Christ, brothers and sisters united by his teaching.”

Tait grew up in the 70’s in Moss Point, Southern Mississipi, in a religious family, his mother deeply rooted in her Christian faith and imparting onto him, early on, the beliefs that Jesus is our salvation and the Holy Spirit, the spirit of God in us. He has been a practicing Christian all his life, belonging to the African American non denominational Church of the Living God, that he attended in his neighborhood as a child, and which exposed him, through faith, to the work his pastors, community leaders, teachers, were doing in his local area confronted with racism and injustice.

“There were marches, Klu Klux Klan rallies, cross burnings,” says Tait. “I saw all of these at work but also the power of the church as a true advocate for peace in the black community, and I embraced it as part of my life.”

In 1976 and as a little boy he participated in his 1st rally marching in favor of Chris Moore, a young black man accused with no proofs of having raped and murdered a white female schoolteacher in Pascagoula, MS. If convicted, Moore would receive the death penalty.

A regular church goer, Tait also learned how to help people and respond to their need, meeting them where they were without prejudice or looking down at them.

For college he decided to study banking and finance and went to Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL, a historical black college located few blocks away from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr. pastored. Montgomery was then the center of the civil rights movement and Tait met there many civil rights leaders and understood the history and the plight of African Americans. This empowered him, gave him a sense of confidence and legitimacy, exposed him to activism and thus shifted his mindset.

“I got involved with the Board of Registration getting students to vote, marched protesting discrimination against our black college not receiving funding from the State while other white colleges were, helped celebrate African American history…” he states.

All along, Tait remained, however, very faithful to his religion, going to church every Sunday, participating with his musical skills in religious services of other denominations, helping start a church and learning how to plan it and organize it.

Graduating in 1995 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, and now married with a child, Tait left AL and relocated in St Louis, MO, a large metropolitan city still segregated by its isolated geographical pockets of African Americans, striking by their disparity and poverty. Despite his academic degree and knowledge Tait was very discriminated against in his Fortune 500 company, and spent there many years fighting for equality and acknowledgment. This prompted, however, his community involvement with United Way, the Urban League, various projects to help those in need, learning at the same time about collaboration and capacity building.

In the meantime, he had decided to become a minister, studied for it for 3 years, got ordained in 1998 and became a pastor in 2000, still working during the day and ministering at night and on weekends.

“My 1st church in St Louis allowed me to develop and acquire the skills of leading a congregation, caring for it, using my influence to advocate for it, and thus become a voice for its people and for peace and justice wherever needed,” he says.

Fourteen years ago, in 2003, Tait got a call from the late Chief Bishop W.E. Crumes, then 89 years old and pastor of the Church of the Living God in Cincinnati, inviting him to join him as a co-pastor to attract more youth into the church. Tait accepted the offer but still took a finance job at A.G. Edwards Investment firm downtown Cincinnati, since then acquired by Wells Fargo. He was the only African American on the job, but connected there with many supportive and genuine individuals open to embrace his culture. He found Cincinnati, however, to be a racist city, still experiencing civil unrest as a result of the 2001 killing of unarmed African American Timothy Thomas by a white policeman. This was nevertheless a great time for Tait, the city trying to heal, the Collaborative Agreement being negotiated, various justice issues being widely discussed. After few years, he decided to resign from his job and became in 2008 full time pastor of the church, also appointed regional Overseer for the Churches of the Living God in Colombus and Cleveland, OH and Midland, PA.

In 2016 and due to a real estate disagreement with the Organization of the Church of the Living God, the community decided to separate from it and for the church to become independent; it also changed its name recently to New Beginnings Church of the Living God, but still following the same biblically-based beliefs and teachings as before.

Coached by Tait, the members of the church, in addition to their religious involvement and, without proselytizing, try to bring evangelical awareness to others, participating as volunteers in various community and church events. They contribute to the church’s Child Development Center; to an educational enrichment program tutoring students with academic difficulty; to a self confidence and self awareness program for young girls and boys; to a 2nd Sunday evangelism and walk the street of the neighborhood event, distributing cloth and food; to a toy give-away program at Christmas; to a food offering service at Thanksgiving…

Tait himself is very involved in the greater Cincinnati community participating in many of its peace and justice organizations and programs. He is part of violence reduction strategies through Serve and Ceasefire, and of Concerned Clergy of Avondale, a cluster of pastors working together to improve quality of life in the neighborhood. He serves on the City Manager Advisory Committee, on the Every Child Succeed Board of Directors and on the Preschool Promise Board. He is also a member of the Community Police Partnering Center, the Avondale Community Development Corporation and the Poverty Collaborative. Tait also works with charter and public schools, and collectively with all faiths, as part of the Faith Community Alliance, to build capacity for causes and issues addressing the plight of the people.

All of Tait’s activities and actions are informed by his deep Christian faith based on the teachings of the Bible. He believes in Heaven on earth and that it needs to be cultivated for everyone and to invite all people to join in, come together and be saved by Christ, irrespective of who they are, their past or their belonging.

“God gave us the church to take care of people,” he says. “It offers a great opportunity for people from all backgrounds to be united, gain strength and move forward.”

Tait would love to open his church to non African Americans and embrace everyone. He would like to help all people go from one stage to another, become free in Christ, empowered by love and compassion.

What is the Church of the Living God

The Church of the Living God was founded in 1889, in Arkansas, by Rev. William Christian, a former pastor of a Baptist church; it was during the desperate days of slavery, when blacks were not allowed to participate in white ministries. Rev Christian, through divine revelation and close study of the scriptures, was lead to the truth that his church bear the name of God and be known as Church of the Living God.

The Protestant, non-denominational, non sectarian church is Bible-based and works at promoting the teaching of Jesus Christ. It emphasizes believers' baptism by immersion, the use of water and unleavened bread in the Lord's Supper and the washing of feet when one unites with the church.

The Church of the Living God is in more than 30 states in the US and has several hundred thousand members. It has both male and female pastors and leaders. It was established in Cincinnati for the 1st time in 1914.

Religious Peacemakers is a regular column published in Streetvibes; it highlights Greater Cincinnati individuals who use their faith and religious beliefs for peace and justice and for a better world.

It is authored by Saad Ghosn, founder and president of SOS (Save Our Souls) ART.