The Office of Spiritual Development and the Social Entrepreneurship program partnered this semester to bring Rev. Floyd Flake to campus to discuss Christian community development. A former U.S. Congressman, Flake is the senior pastor of the more than 20,000 member Greater Allen A. M. E. Cathedral of New York. The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral operates a 30,000 square feet multi-service center, has an extensive business development program, and has rehabbed housing to serve hundreds of the homeless and elderly in their community.
The Greater Allen Cathedral’s operations are now a national paradigm of church-centered, faith based, public/private community educational and economic development, but when Flake first arrived at the church, the congregation and the community were suffering. Residents were moving away because the area suffered from too much crime, poor educational options and a diminishing property value. “My challenge,” Flake said, “was to introduce new ideas to the church, new ideas to an old congregation. We went through our struggles.”
But if the system is failing, that’s when the church needs to step in, Flake remarked. “We must have a sense of purpose. Are we doing this for a reason and what is that reason?”
During his 31-year pastorate, Allen has become one of the nation’s foremost Christian churches and development corporations. The church and its subsidiary corporations operate with an annual budget of over $34 million. The church also owns expansive commercial and residential developments, a 750-student private school founded by Flake and his wife Elaine, and various commercial and social service enterprises, which has placed it among the nation’s most productive religious and urban development institutions. The corporations, church administrative offices, school, and ministries comprise one of the Borough of Queens’ largest private sector employers.