A visionary; A shepherd's heart; Always Grandpa

By Monica Fountain
John W. Fountain with Grandfather George A. Hagler, 94.
Pastor George Albert Hagler is a man of vision. He is a man with a vision for souls. A man with a heart for the people. More than 40 years ago, Pastor Hagler heard the voice of the Lord and received a vision for a church. In 1972, he founded True Vine Church of God in Christ in Chicago, Ill.
For decades, Pastor Hagler has preached the Gospel and served the community, whether on Chicago’s West Side, in suburban Bellwood and the surrounding communities, or wherever his heart and mission to make a difference have led him. He is considered by many as being more than just a pastor. He is a father. In 2014, he was ordained a Bishop in the Church of God In Christ, International.

If I were a pastor...

By John W. Fountain
If I were a pastor, I would tear down these walls. Move beyond the warm sanctuary of brick, glass and mortar. Into the cold streets and dark subterranean spaces where humans dwell on life’s fringes, more in despair than in hope. I would discard the high and mighty pulpit — if we must gather in so-called houses of worship at all — so that none are lifted up. Every believer on the same plane. No pomp and circumstance, if I were a pastor.
I would seek to make the church touchable again. Willing to touch again. Offended less by the foulest smell of homelessness and most wretched of nursing homes than by the stench of Christian elitism and human coldness. Humble. Hungry for souls. Hope-rich. Healing. Wholly seeking to be that light shining on a hill.

Our dead could fill our stadiums

By John W. Fountain
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. The mass murder of
African Americans by African Americans was not a part of that dream.
  Imagine Soldier Field beyond capacity, brimming with 63,879 young African-American men, ages 18 to 24—more than U.S. losses in the entire Vietnam conflict. Imagine the University of Michigan’s football stadium—the largest in the U.S.—filled to its limit of 109,901 with black men, age 25 and older. Now add 28,223 more—together totaling more than U.S. deaths in World War I.
     Picture two UIC Pavillions packed with12,658 Trayvon Martins—black boys, ages 14 to 17—nearly twice the number of U.S. lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now picture all of them dead. The national tally of black males 14 and older murdered in America over a 30-year period from 1976 through 2005, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics: 214,661. The numbers tell only part of the story of this largely urban war, where the victims bare an uncanny resemblance to their killers. A war of brother against brother, filled with wanton and automatic gunfire, even in the light of day, on neighborhood streets, where little boys make mud pies, schoolgirls jump rope, where the innocent are caught in the crossfire, where the spirit of murder blows like the wind.


For every Trayvon Martin killed by someone not black, 
nine other blacks were murdered by someone black.

Still looking for a few good men

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free”
—Fredrick Douglass

By John W. Fountain
John Fountain reading to children at Matteson
Elementary School in Matteson, Illinois.
A brother I saw at the coffee shop this morning mentioned that he saw my picture in the newspaper and that the story made mention of a mentoring program I was involved with. I explained that it’s a reading program at Matteson Elementary School and that we read to children on Thursday mornings—just 45 minutes.
He shrugged, somewhat unimpressed—at least not convinced it was a big enough deal. “We gotta do more than that…” he said.
I explained to him that once upon a time, it was illegal and punishable by imprisonment and whipping, to teach a black slave to read. I explained that there is a direct correlation between adults who can’t read and those who end up in prison.
I explained that there is a schools-to-prison pipeline that can predict with some degree of certainty that by the time little black boys are in 4th grade how many prisons will need to be built to house them. I explained that we read to 1st through 3rd grade students and that we have an opportunity to help save them. That if they are behind in reading proficiency by 4th grade, the likelihood of them ever catching up is almost nil.

Until the old Church returns: "No Tithes Sunday"

44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
—Acts: 2:44-47
By John W. Fountain
  And herein lies the problem… The House of God is out of order. The church has misplaced its priorities, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on building earthen temples rather than the temples of humankind. God has supplied all our needs according to His riches in glory, and we as members of the Body of Christ have sacrificed, laying our treasures at the altar at our local so-called houses of worship. But too often those treasures/finances are irresponsibly misplaced, misused, and disproportionately spent on things that have little utility for the daily lives of people.
The apostles in the New Testament didn’t browbeat the people to give. The people gave from their hearts, selling even their own houses, not for the erection of a temple or the apostles’ salary, but that they might help the widow, the poor, the orphan. The people and church leaders understood, even back then, that “the church” is the ecclesia, the living, breathing and moving body of believers.
Many years ago, as a sophomore at the University of Illinois in Champaign, I needed $300 to return to school that fall 1979. Mama didn’t have it. My father was dead and in his grave. So we took our need to the church folk.

“What would I do with $50 million given by God’s people? 
…I would never put it in a sinkhole, like a church building.”

Worship is not about where, but how

By John W. Fountain

A South African woman at a well, the only source
of water for hundreds in a township, fills her bucket
Photo: By John W. Fountain 
For weeks, a little chocolate girl named Brenda and I climbed the stairs of Sister Betty's house to practice for our church play. A Sunday School teacher and Bible enthusiast, Sister Betty drafted us for a dramatic interpretation of a passage of Scripture: St. John 4. I was about 10 and Brenda about 7 or 8. I was Jesus. She was the Samaritan woman.
            Over and over again, we rehearsed our lines with dramatic inflection. Brenda had a mean set of pipes and routinely did recitations in church, her voice bellowing like a megaphone: "O clap your hands, all ye people . . . "
            We were both budding thespians, good kids from good church-going families with praying grandmothers who loved the Lord. We arose on Sunday mornings fully aware that - barring serious illness or the Lord having returned on a cloud to rapture the church - Sunday School, and nearly all-day worship service, was inescapable.
            As a boy, I vowed, braving the risk of saying it out loud: "When I get grown, I ain't ever going to church, ever!"

"As a full-grown man, especially as of late,
 I have made no secret of my absence, 
or defection,
 from the institutional church."

No one can save us but us

By John W. Fountain
I am so sick of black so-called academics bemoaning the use of the term: black-on-black murder.
Look, of course, with regard to homicide figures, whites kill whites and blacks kill blacks--most murder is intra-racial. But when blacks make up 12 percent of the U.S. population and in some years have accounted for more than 50 percent of all murders nationally, it says that we kill each other at an alarmingly disproportionate rate.
In all my years of covering murder and crime, and all the stories I have written, I have never covered the story of a black person murdered by someone white. In fact, 9 out of 10 of us are killed by us. Fact.

The most sincere question on how to stop the killing: Do we have the will?

Republished from Chicago Sun-times July 4, 2012

“In the midst of all these challenges, however, my single most important responsibility as President is to keep the American people safe.  It's the first thing that I think about when I wake up in the morning.  It's the last thing that I think about when I go to sleep at night.” –President Barack Obama, speaking on National Security, May 21, 2009

By John W. Fountain
If we can find Saddam Hussein hiding in a hole in the desert. If we can hunt down Osama bin Laden, track him to a secret compound, slip undetected through another country’s air space and extract him never to be seen or heard of again.
If we can thwart terrorists worldwide, pinpoint their movement and send the message loud and clear that they and any who protect them can run but surely can’t hide. If we can declare war on those who have declared war on the sanctity of life in America, and who show blatant disregard even for women and children. If we can put a man on the moon… Why can’t we stop these homegrown thugs who amount to urban terrorists?

Not a 'dog' story...It's about a boy

A view of Chicago's downtown from the city's West Side where Fountain grew
up and for which he named the publishing company he founded: WestSide Press. 
Part of this week’s column appeared in a column by the author in the Chicago Sun-Times in March 2011.
By John W. Fountain
His name was Rodney McAllister Jr. I became aware of his story in March 2001 while a national correspondent for The New York Times. The 10-year-old St. Louis boy had not come home one evening. The following morning, someone saw a pack of stray dogs making a ruckus at a nearby park. He went to investigate. They were gnawing something. There, beneath a pine tree... a child. It turned out to be Rodney, who, according to officials, was mauled to death.
I quickly made telephone calls and found community leaders and others who questioned how something like this could happen, not in a Third World country, but in a sturdy metropolis, in one of the world's richest countries. That some reportedly heard a child’s screams the night before but never went to investigate made the story even more troubling.
It was clear from my preliminary reporting that there was a story here, about a man-child said to sometimes wear shoes several sizes too big, a boy beloved by his teachers and classmates who had fallen through the cracks. A story about how his death galvanized a community.

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 am a sinner. I stand with one foot in each world, one called sin, the other called grace. I stand in the midst of sins I have committed today and yesterday and those I inevitably will commit on tomorrow. And whatever my sins—and they are many—none of them are greater than His grace that by the blood of His Son can make me—us—in the words of a Gospel hymn, “whiter than snow.” I stand because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—He who remembers when others forget but also He who forgets when others remember. I stand. And yet, without Him, I can do nothing.
I stand here, somewhere on the timeline of Christianity—more than 2,000 years after the Day of Pentecost, 18 centuries after Roman Emperor Constantine the Great placed his thumbprint on Christianity, and many years after the Great Awakenings. I stand somewhere in the afterglow of the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, which gave birth to modern Pentecostalism in America. I stand. Between the cries of ancestral slaves in the cotton fields of southern plantations, between my great-great grandfather’s pastoral prayers in Pulaski, Illinois, where he—Burton Roy—migrated from Atlanta, Georgia, after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation set him free from the bonds of slavery he inherited from birth. I stand.
I stand on the prayers of my grandmother and grandfather, Florence Geneva and George Albert Hagler, who, in 1943 made their way, like millions of southern blacks during the Great Migration to Freedom Land up north—in their case Chicago. I stand as testament to the prayers and faith of the “prayer warriors,” those gray-haired church mothers with whom on Tuesday and Friday mornings at one storefront church or another we petitioned God for my soul, health and future. I stand as proof that God hears even the cries of a ghetto boy.

‘Unpimpable’ to those pastors who prey on the poor

Originally Published Oct. 17, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times
Unpimpable, I am. Unpimpable by those “pastors” who prey on the poor, who dwell in opulence, or strut like peacocks in the pulpit, wearing flashy designer suits, lizard or gator shoes, their necks dripping with golden crosses. Those who more resemble gaudy pimp-like creatures than humble men of God.
I am unpimpable by those flamboyant pastoral leaders who in an age of a bling-bling Gospel areescorted through the sanctuary by “armor bearers,” wearing two-way radio earpieces and blank faces, as if they are the Secret Service protecting the president. Those pastors who live in suburban meadows while their sheep dwell in urban ghettos.