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Devoted to Social Justice

 
John enjoys the nature-filled surroundings of The Rickman Center, located outside Jefferson City.   
While in the seminary, John helped a fellow seminarian with an assignment to convert an old shanty into a church to serve an area that ‘really needed a church.’  John recalls a defining moment in his life.  “As we worked on this shanty, a youngster named Quincy with a polished propensity for panhandling made our acquaintance,” gleams John.  “One day, he asked me for money, and I was flat broke.  I turned my pockets inside out to show him.  I was dumbfounded when he hauled off and repeatedly kicked me in the shins!  My immediate response was to return the blows.  It took all my patience to refrain.  As I evaluated the situation, I realized Quincy’s actions helped him survive in his world.  In a most dramatic way, Quincy opened my eyes to social justice inequities.”

Rev. Dr. John Bennett, a native of Flat River, is an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  He started his college career at Flat River Junior College in 1958-60.  Later, he completed a BA in Sociology from Culver-Stockton College and a Bachelor of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry from Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky.  “Throughout my ministry I was involved ecumenically and with social justice causes,” explains The Reverend.  “My theological development occurred in the 1960s which prompted me to be grounded in the prophetic biblical tradition.  My theological mantra has been ‘let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’" (Amos 5:24)  

His multi-faceted ministry includes pastor for various congregations in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Missouri and associate regional minister for the Christian Church in the Upper Midwest.  John explains, “In 2005, I concluded my ministerial career as director of Missouri School of Religion Center for Rural Ministry, a non-denomination clergy continuing education center whose ecumenical mission is to educate and train lay people for ministry in rural and small town churches.”  John says one of his “richest and rewarding challenges” is educating elected officials and journalists about social justice issues.

At his retirement celebration, his colleagues honored him with the newly created "John Bennett Award for Meritorious Ministry in Church and Community" for his contributions to ministerial endeavors which extended beyond the pulpit.  He recalls,“It was a touching moment,” he says.  “And, to be the first recipient was an incredibly humbling experience.”  He was a founding member of Jefferson City’s Congregations United for Racial Equity and earned its David Brent Racial Justice Award in 2006.  He is a founding and current board member of Missouri Interfaith IMPACT, a legislative advocacy organization, and served as outreach coordinator and 2010 board chair.  

John remains active in ministry.  He says, “I am sent to congregations where I do ‘supply preaching.’  I work with the Commission on Mission and Unity of the Christian Church of Mid-America and Missourians to End Poverty and Missouri Faith Voices, an emerging faith-based social justice organization.  I have also served ecumenically as chair of the Coordinating Council of Missouri Churches Uniting in Christ.”  

Of FRJC days, John says, “The relatively small student body suited me well.  FRJC laid an excellent foundation for my graduate and post-graduate studies.  My Student Council and yearbook work helped develop leadership skills.  I especially admired Professors Charles Bess, Irene Bloom, Mary Helen Bloom, and Mary Clark who made a lasting impact on me and many students.  I enjoyed watching Coaches Louis Meyer and Robert Sechrest put some of my athletic friends through their paces!  As I reviewed the 1960 Chats, many precious memories of friendships surfaced in my mind and heart.”

John resides in Jefferson City and is the father of three adult children and rejoices in six grandchildren.  John invites friends and former classmates to email him at jhbennett@embarqmail.com.

Mineral Area College • 5270 Flat River Road • P.O. Box 1000 • Park Hills, MO 63601 • (573)431-4593