By George Larrimore
Cooper-Young’s First Congregational Church and the women who guide its mission are being honored with a Mojo of Midtown Award by the Midtown Memphis Development Corporation.
The Mojos, now in their fifth year, spotlight organizations and individuals who have, through their talent, motivation, innovation, and “mojo,” made significant contributions to the vibrancy and sustainability of Midtown Memphis
First Congregational, often referred to as First Congo, is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and not only serves the congregation through its ministry but the greater Memphis community through partnerships with more than 30 organizations under the church’s roof on South Cooper.
“Churches exist to help the communities and the people around them,” Senior Minister Rev. Cheryl Cornish told us. “We have found Midtown to be a real crossroads of needs and resources and so part of our calling as a church is to be there for people in need.”
Besides “food justice” programs that provide nourishment for 500 people a week, the church and it’s partner organizations support the homeless, immigrants, the LGBT community, and more. The church also provides space for a bicycle workshop, a theatre group, and a farmer’s market. The doors are open to people who want to help.
“If folks come at us with an idea or something that they feel called to do, we really try to listen to that,” Rev. Cornish says. “It may not be what other people are interested in, but if it’s important to them we try to provide space and a place for that. Some ideas work, and some don’t, but we really try to be responsive to people as they’re feeling called to live out their faith, or to do something positive in the world.”
In addition to Reverend Cornish, the Mojo Awards will also recognize Associate Pastor Sonia Walker and Director of Mission Julia Hicks.
The Mojo Award itself, unlike most awards, is as unique as the individual receiving it. The creation of Cooper-Young artist Karen Capps, the award is a hand that is hand painted (“this year it’s spring green”) and then decorated in a way that tells the story, visually, of each recipient. For First Congo, for example, the award will include an image of the church and miniature portraits of Cornish, Walker, and Hicks. Capps, who is being helped this year by another CY artist, Carol Robison, uses “every visual we can think of” in designing each award and while the hand itself is “a no-brainer,” the challenge is in “capturing the person’s essence.” But she also says, “that’s the cool part.”
The Mojo Awards will be handed out at a ceremony Wednesday, March 27, at Circuit Playhouse, 51 South Cooper. Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 day of and are available online at midtownmemphis.org and through Eventbrite. For further information, contact Emily Cupples by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The doors open at 6 p.m., and the short awards ceremony will be followed by a great party with live music by the Earnestine and Hazel’s House Band, wine, beer, and heavy hors d’oeuvres.