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MOUNT VERNON - The City of Mount Vernon is hosting a webinar entitled Who Is My Neighbor?

It's an hour-long presentation including questions and answers from virtual audience members Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021 at 6 p.m. Local faith-based leaders Reverend Scott Elliott of the First Congregational Church, Pastor Gavin Cole of the Apostolic Christian Church, and Father Mark Hammond of St. Vincent DePaul Church will lead a dialogue on the history and the Church’s role in response to racism.

Following the incidents this past year of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the country responded with protests and demonstrations demanding an end to racism. Mount Vernon was no stranger to the issue as protestors took to Public Square on more than one occasion to be heard.

Mount Vernon Mayor Matt Starr began meeting with members of the black community to try to understand the frustration and reality of living in Mount Vernon as a minority.

“I’ve listened to several members of the black community and some from the hispanic community,” Starr said. “There are varying kinds of response to the incidents, but just understanding first hand accounts of how these tragedies affect our neighbors here in town has been eye-opening.”

This summer, Starr announced that he was working with different members of the minority community in developing a series of webinars for the community to be a start of dialogue to promote understanding and sensitivity. Among different members, Pastor Gavin Cole, youth minister for the Apostolic Church and Starr became good friends discussing global and local issues surrounding racism from language to subtle nonverbal messages.

Cole is one among others from the minority community who continues to meet with the Mayor. Both agree that is the key to developing strong relationships with each other and hope the community reaches out to their neighbors as well.

Each of the Mount Vernon ministers are excited about the opportunity.

“The process of reconciliation between those involved requires a relationship,” Cole said. “In a relationship, we are close enough to listen to the other respectfully.”

Over several months Father Hammond, Reverend Elliott, Gavin Cole, and Mayor Starr decided to apply this principle together internally and hope to share unique views on using the Good Neighbor Principle in the Mount Vernon community.

“We model a timeless principle and ancient parable when we desire to foster relationships and listen respectfully, the Good Neighbor Principle,” Reverend Cole added.

The webinar is the first in a series of three the city has organized with different leaders. Later in the winter, Sociologist Rick Sheffled and his Kenyon students will lead a discussion on Diversity in the Heartland. In the spring, Tavaris Taylor, Director of Intercultural Life and Mount Vernon Nazarene University, will lead a discussion on life in Mount Vernon through the eyes of a visiting minority student. Specific dates of those webinars will be forthcoming.

All three panelists for Who Is My Neighbor? will answer questions from the audience following short presentations. The webinar is free and open to the public. More information for signing up is available at or by simply signing into the Zoom link at; passcode: NEIGHBOR (case sensitive).

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