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Mercer Commons’ Beloved Symposium to Focus on Poverty Alleviation

February 15, 2011

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek, (478) 301-4037 or

MACON — The Mercer Commons Seventh Annual Building the Beloved Community Symposium will be held Feb. 22 and 23 and is based on the theme “Who Is Our Neighbor? Poverty in the Beloved Community” (II Corinthians 8:9). The Rev. Leroy Barber, president of Mission Year, will deliver two keynote lectures, the first on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Newton Chapel on the Macon campus, and the second at 10 a.m. on Feb. 23 in the sanctuary of Centenary United Methodist Church.

“We were honored that The Rev. Barber would participate in our symposium. He is the perfect choice for it,” said Dr. John M. Dunaway, professor of foreign language and director of Mercer Commons. “His ministry is totally focused on becoming a true neighbor to the poor in the biblical sense, and it is directly inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of Beloved Community.”

Barber is currently the president of Mission Year, a national urban initiative introducing 18- to 29-year-olds to missional and communal living in city centers for one year. He is the pastor of a church plant, Community Fellowships Church; and on the boards of Atlanta Youth Academy and DOOR.  Barber is author of the book New Neighbor and contributed to the book UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters. He has more than two decades of experience working with urban ministries from homelessness to youth outreach.

The symposium begins on Tuesday, Feb. 22, with a keynote speech by Barber in Newton Chapel at 7 p.m. On Wednesday, Feb. 23, the symposium will move to Centenary United Methodist Church on College Street, beginning with the pastors’ breakfast at 8:30 a.m. That event will be followed at 10 a.m. by Barber’s second address in Centenary’s sanctuary. At 11 a.m., participants will break into smaller groups to discuss issues in Macon and ways to advance the theme, and at noon, the symposium will conclude with a lunch with reports from the small groups and a final response to those reports from Barber.

Dr. Dunaway founded the symposium in 2004 to find a way to help the church demonstrate unity through collaboration across denominational and racial boundaries based on King’s concept of the “beloved community.” The symposium also works to foster follow-up activities between black and white churches, through such activities as sister-church relationships, pulpit exchanges, partnerships in community development and service and the formation of action groups for specific issues.

About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit
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