As a university that seeks to exemplify inquiry, service, leadership and care, Pacific Lutheran University constantly pursues opportunities to impact the community. This weekend, PLU hosts PLU Sunday – a chance for the university to live out its mission statement and forge deeper connections with the greater Tacoma area.
Sunday Nov. 15, PLU joins Eastside Baptist Church for a service geared toward displaying the university’s dedication to community outreach and passion for social justice.
“This is an intentional way for PLU to go out into the community to showcase who we are [and] what we do,” said Melannie Cunningham, Director of Multicultural Recruitment.
A church founded in the Southern baptist tradition, Eastside Baptist is an inner-city congregation focused on civil engagement.
“It is a place where there is a lot of music, a lot of joy, a lot of praising of God and a lot of care about the community,” said Douglas Oakman, pastor and professor of Religion at PLU.
In alliance with Black Student Union, Cunningham championed communication between PLU and East Baptist to coordinate this event. Oakman was specifically invited to give the sermon at PLU Sunday, mainly due to his background in the African-American church.
“He has a real passion for African-American faith-based worship,” Cunningham said. “Looking (at this man who is white), you wouldn’t know that he has that fire.”
As a grad student, Oakman joined Bethlehem Lutheran Church, an African-American congregation in West Oakland, California. There he cultivated his career as a pastor and discovered a passion for social justice.
“[I] felt very much so…that diversity is important,” Oakman said. “With all that’s happened in our society within the last couple years, [I’m] very aware of the kind of unjust treatment of people in our society, especially people of color.”
Oakman’s experience in the black church, he says, helped him learn how to be part of another culture. His sermon for Sunday focuses on addressing racial ignorance and injustice in American society, promoting love and justice and highlighting the importance of PLU’s partnership with the community.
To craft his sermon Oakman drew upon a quotation by pastor Cornel West: “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Oakman says he hopes to spread the same sentiment with his sermon on Sunday.
Accompanying Oakman at the PLU Sunday event are some of PLU’s own students, faculty and staff. David Deacon-Joyner, Professor of Jazz Studies, will join with recent graduate Sasha Julian to treat attendees with a rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday.” PLU’s gospel choir will also share the stage with Eastside Baptists own company to provide music for the sermon.
“This place rocks with gospel music,” Oakman said.
Both Cunningham and Oakman hope Lutes will come out to Eastside Baptist Church in support of the PLU Sunday event. It’s not only a chance to connect with the community, but also an opportunity to discuss the meaning of PLU’s mission statement in a political, cultural and global scales.
“We want to roll up in big numbers,” Cunningham said.
Eastside Baptist Church is located at 3575 Portland Ave E, Tacoma, WA 98404. The PLU Sunday event begins at 10 a.m. Sunday Nov. 15. ◼︎