Video: Pastor Charles Galbreath on Community Engagement

Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary are proud of the work our alumni do. Here, we introduce Pastor Charles Galbreath of Clarendon Road Church. He is a graduate of our seminary and works closely with his Brooklyn community.

Pastor Charles Galbreath, Master of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary:

I really do feel as though I was a missionary. I don’t come from New York. I’m not familiar with Brooklyn. I’m not connected here, so I’m coming in as an outsider. And so I’m asking the question: How can I as an outsider be able to connect with those who are here in this congregation?

One of the prevailing challenges was the issue of gun violence. An issue that I wasn’t necessarily familiar with, but a issue that I knew that we were called to make an impact with. It is something very, very painful and difficult. And what are the words do you say when you enter into a house with a family who has experienced such loss and such pain?

And so a group of clergy and pastors and leaders in this area have formed a community group to address this issue of gun violence to see what are some of the things we can do to mitigate the violence, but also to eliminate the violence.

Of the pastors who we put together this group, one of them is a Nyack College grad, another one is Alliance Theological Seminary grad. But as we started to have conversations and hear about each other’s story we’d say, “You went to Nyack? Oh, I went to Nyack. You went to ATS?” But what was impactful is that we all had the same vision. We were all connected towards this vision that brought us together as pastors and leaders to impact Brooklyn.

One of those areas that we were able to also partner with was with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, as well as the New York Police Department. In putting together this past summer a gun buy back program, thankfully 65 guns were turned in on that day. And that Sunday, somebody brought in a backpack in the middle of service with a gun and said, “I need to turn this in today.” So I believe that we are called to show mercy. We are also called to stand for justice. For us, this was a issue that was ripping apart our community and we could not stand silent.

I always let my church know for all the things that I’m doing that make you all a little bit uncomfortable, blame Nyack. Blame Alliance Theological Seminary. Particularly the area of community engagement. Of being incarnational in regards to what we do as a church community. To be able to recognize and see that I had to know who these people were. I had to listen to them deeply, as well as to be a part of them. And that gives me greater insight to have influence here at Clarendon Road Church leading a diverse congregation. And sometimes doing that multicultural work can get a little messy, but if I didn’t have the foundations from Nyack, I think I would have been afraid of the mess and ran away from it instead of just jumping into it and saying, “Yeah, sometimes it gets messy, but that doesn’t mean that we run from it. It means that we collaborate and work and grow together.”

I always share it with them. I said, “Listen, I’m leading you guys in discipleship, but I’m the pastor for this entire neighborhood. There’s some folks who only come in here a couple of Sundays a year, but I’m their pastor.” And I’m all right with that because I believe that as a church, we are called to serve this community, to be that light of the gospel right here on this corner of Clarendon and New York Avenue. And so that’s a direct influence of Nyack.