There are many titles that can precede Everett Mitchell’s name. Reverend. Judge. Attorney. Husband. Father. Community leader. He is all of those. He has worked for Madison-area Urban Ministry, the Dane County District Attorney’s office, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church. He was elected as a Dane County Circuit Court Judge in 2016. He is married to Mankah Zama Mitchell and they are the parents of two children.
What does Jesus mean for you?
This is a loaded theological and personal question.
Theologically, Jesus represents an uncompromising force for justice and inclusion of those communities that are often systemically excluded by those who have the power to do so. Or as James Cone wrote in his book, Black Theology and Black Power, “Jesus is Black.” In addition, Jesus demonstrates that God’s work is not excluded to or limited to those with social and economic power. In fact, Jesus called and involved those whom others may not have chosen to initiate a new movement that challenges patriarchy while at the same time building a new covenant community of people committed to these new values.
Jesus’ commitment to those on the margins is reflective of the prophetic tradition in Amos and Micah as he is intentional about hanging out with the tax collectors and sinners. Jesus possessed spiritual power that could alter the physical world, yet he chose to use the power as an example of God’s witness of love and justice for all of God’s children. Therefore, Jesus’ command for us to love one’s neighbor, love God, cease from judging, to forgive one another and to pay attention to the least of these, underscores the significant commitment Christians ought to give to these values when living out our everyday faith.
Therefore, when I think about my role as a Pastor, I want to ensure that the church knows that our feet walk with those witnesses who believe that love is a soul force that can transform systems of injustice. Jesus did not simply just preach. Jesus was a practitioner of love, prayer and commitment. This commitment led him to offer his body to expose a brutal and unjust system.
I recognize that Jesus’ love for human beings and justice is difficult to replicate in a further complex global world. But, living within each interaction of a smile, a hug, a kind word or using one’s voice when there is injustice provides the potential for transformation and change.
What is the church body doing well and what could we improve on?
I think the church body is trying to overcome what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned, “that Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.” There are so many congregations that are trying to live out a belief in the beloved community by reaching out to diverse congregations to build sustainable and long-term relationships.
I continue to witness passionate and caring congregations deeply involved in issues of incarceration, mental health, homelessness, environmental justice, financial literacy, voting education, youth empowerment, educational access, health care and trauma transformation. So much work is being done.
The body must figure out ways to collaborate and do the work together. One of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church’s major partners is Lake Edge Lutheran Church. For the last two and a half years, we have worked with Lake Edge to build a strong shared commitment to the idea of a beloved community. Combining a largely white Lutheran congregation with a largely black Baptist/Pentecostal congregation is full of potential class, racial, and social conflicts. Despite the differences, the two congregations have engaged in several joint projects that are meaningful to both our congregations: pulpit exchanges, joint Bible Study on Wednesday night, Vacation Bible school for young students, Men’s retreat, Women’s retreat, and community service projects. This partnership allows for both congregations to use our collective faith, passion and resources to tackle whatever God is calling for us to do.
The body of Christ will need to build more of these collaborations so at least the church can become a model of love and acceptance.
What scripture really defines where you are today in life and why
Micah 6.8 “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Being a judge and seeing a lot of negative issues with people who come into your court. How do you keep your faith?
I don’t see a lot of negative issues with people. I witness a lot of broken systems that really don’t know what to do with broken people, especially broken children. Faith for me is a reminder that every individual is given power to make change or speak up or to ask questions. I am often discouraged listening to the pain of victims who lose a sense of safety and peace because of what has been done to them or a loved one.
I keep my faith because I realize and believe in the endless potential of human beings to transform their lives if given the tools necessary to do so. I continue to witness children who fight and despite all odds survive to fight another day. They learn how to show empathy and concern for others during this process.
Thurgood Marshall or Martin Luther King, Jr.?
This question is like trying to answer: What do you like better in your Culvers Concrete Mixer? Snickers or Peanut Butter Cups? Both men have inspired my journey. Justice Marshall championed using the law for justice. Dr. King fought for just laws. In either case, both offer me a unique blending of passion and strategy as I approach both my work on the bench as well as in the pulpit.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
Doctor. I saw a lot of my family members who were so sick. I wanted to be the doctor who healed them so they could live long and healthy lives.