James Meeks Announces Retirement as Pastor of House of Hope in Chicago After 42 Years of Ministry

The Rev. James Meeks and his wife, Jemell, leave the South Shore Cultural Center on Monday. (Andy Grimm/Sun-Times)

At a Juneteenth celebration Monday at the Park Community Church, Rev. James Meeks still mixes the fire of a pastor with the diplomacy of a politician.

But on Sunday he surprised the faithful at the 10,000-seat House of Hope in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood by telling them that after 42 years in ministry, most of which were spent as pastor of Salem Baptist Church, he would be stepping aside in January of next year.

Meeks said the decision was “quite easy.”

“It’s time for those of us in our generation to also train young people of the next generation to step up,” he said.

“I think that’s what’s happening with too many of our politicians and local leaders,” Meeks said. “We hold on to offices too long. We encourage young people to go to school and make something of themselves. When they come home, they have to sit and wait until some old person dies. I think that’s unfair.”

Pastor Charlie Dates, who attended Salem Baptist’s school as a child, will be taking over pastoral duties. Meeks will spend more time with Salem’s philanthropic arm, the Hope Center Foundation.

“I want to be around a few years to kind of push him … guide him … keep him in the right direction,” Meeks said.

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SOURCE: NBC Chicago, Charlie Wojciechowski