Reverend Ray Hammond: Pastor at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Case Study: The Godly Power
IT’S BEEN 20 YEARS since Reverend Ray Hammond founded Bethel A.M.E. in his Dorchester dining room, and until his upcoming move to the former St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Jamaica Plain is complete, he’ll continue preaching to his flock on folding chairs in an old school gym. If it seems a little odd for the city’s most connected preacher to have spent so long in such rude lodgings, well, that’s just Pastor Ray, says Reverend Richard Richardson, associate pastor of St. Paul A.M.E. in Cambridge. "He didn’t rush to try to become something bigger than what God would have him be."
Hammond may be humble (he declined to be photographed for this story), but he’s deeply dug in: He chairs the board of the Boston Foundation, is a trustee of the Yawkey Foundation II, and is also chairman of the Ten Point Coalition, the community group behind Boston’s successful efforts to quell gang violence in the ’90s. That combination of reticence and diverse alliances makes Hammond emblematic of the evolution of religious power in this growingly secular city, with its history of soapboxing religio-political leaders. It also sets him apart from fellow clergy like Bruce Wall and Eugene Rivers, whose barnstorming verbosity won them entrance into the halls of power — and later, summary banishment. "Ray has had a relationship with everybody who’s shared an office on the second floor since Weld. He walks in those circles," says his friend Horace Small, head of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. While often frustrated with what he sees as Hammond’s reluctance to upset the city’s largely white power structure, Small understands it’s based in strategy as well as temperament. "With Ray, it’s like, ‘I won’t stick my neck out, because I want to be here to fight another day,’" Small says. "I understand it. I understand that this is Boston." —Lissa Harris
POTENCY THROUGH PATIENCE
Ray Flynn on the upside to the Catholic Church’s power outage.
Ray Flynn, the former mayor of Boston and ambassador to the Vatican, sees a silver lining in the Boston archdiocese’s struggles in Archbishop Seán O’Malley, who’s largely forsaken the political wheeling and dealing of old for a more humble, conciliatory approach: It could well be the only way for the Catholic Church to get back in sync with its lay leadership, Flynn says. "[O'Malley]‘s a good American, but he’s not a politician. He’s done the best I’ve seen in terms of distancing himself from the kind of political roundtables where they carve up the pie…. It’s a more independent, healthier relationship." Call it answering to a higher power.