Roughly 25 people gathered at the Macedonia Church of God in Christ on Monday evening for an inauguration service for the new president of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association — Pastor Roger Wilkins of Maranatha Life Changing Ministries.

“We hold in front of us our social justice initiative,” Pastor Kelcy G.L. Steele, GNHCA’s vice president, said at the inauguration’s press conference. “There is so much going on in New Haven from the Munson project to the school board battles and electing a new superintendent. We stand at the forefront of that, having individuals attend meetings on our behalf because we stand for the word of God as it relates to what’s going on in our society and world.”

By acting as a watchdog on city government, Steele said, the Greater New Haven Clergy Association hopes to serve as the voice for those who do not have a voice. The press conference focused largely on the Greater New Haven Clergy Association’s historic dedication to social justice and Wilkin’s desire to continue this focus as the new president.

Asked whether he had any concrete plans for social justice-oriented events, Wilkins did not cite any specific examples. Rather, he emphasized that his main focus was to make the community more aware of social problems and uniting people, so they can work together to create change.

In an October interview with the New Haven Register, Wilkins said the Greater New Haven Clergy Association had plans to partner with the King-Robinson Interdistrict Magnet and Lincoln Basset schools. The clergy association also has plans to work on a substance-abuse initiative, Project Green, designed to integrate young, previously incarcerated men back into society.

Wilkins said he moved to Newhallville in the 1960s. He recalled the day when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, which spurred New Haven to establish its first curfew when he was 11 years old. Still, he said, he has always felt he had a wonderful life on Butler Street in Newhallville, never experiencing outright discrimination until he went to college. Wilkins said the Greater New Haven Clergy Association was to thank for the neighborhood’s prosperity.

“While we have experienced so many changes and come so far, there are still people who want to take us back,” Wilkins said, drawing on his experience with the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Wilkins said that as president of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association, he wants to continue to make change, especially given the ascent of President Donald Trump.

Bishop Vincent Smith, the third and final speaker of the inauguration, congratulated Wilkins for continuing the association’s legacy, which has been serving the Greater New Haven area for 70 years.

“You know what’s unique about 70 years? Most of us in the clergy are nowhere near 70,” Smith said. “We’re standing on the shoulders of others.”

Kiddest Sinke | kiddest.sinke@yale.edu