Reporting Dana Kozlov
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CHICAGO (CBS) – A South Side pastor was back behind the pulpit Sunday, after living on top of a shuttered motel for nearly three months as part of his quest to build a new community center in the West Woodlawn neighborhood.
As CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov reports, Rev. Corey Brooks camped out on that roof across the street from his church so he could buy the building, which he wants to replace with a community center.
He came down Friday evening after actor-director Tyler Perry pledged to make the final donation.
On Sunday, Brooks addressed the congregation of New Beginnings Church for the first time since his rooftop efforts began last November.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Marsett reports
Hundreds of parishioners showed up to celebrate the end of fundraising to buy the shuttered Super Motel at 6625 S. King Dr.; the next stage is raising money to replace the motel with a community center.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his rabbi also attended Sunday’s service. It turns out, Brooks plight made quite an impression on them, too.
A spiritual rejuvenation, an interfaith celebration, or simply Brooks’ rooftop revelations; whatever you want to called it, Brooks’ first service at New Beginnings Church since descending from the motel roof left very few people speechless.
“He’s a real inspiration, because you don’t find a lot of pastors who would put themselves up like that. And he didn’t come down until he got the money,” parishioner Lora Clincy said.
Emanuel was among the crowd, invited to the service by Brooks, weeks after the mayor called the pastor to give him his support.
“I was so thankful and so grateful – he doesn’t even know how grateful – when the mayor called and just simply said, ‘Listen, I just want to encourage you. I just want to tell you that I understand what you’re doing,’” Brooks said.
Emanuel said, “While I speak from the podium, and the pastor speaks from the pulpit, we’re headed in the same direction.”
Brooks lived on bank’s roof for 94 days, committed to the camp out until he raised $450,000 to buy the motel and tear it down. On Friday, actor-director Tyler Perry donated nearly $100,000, helping Brooks surpass his goal.
It’s a vision parishioners and even Emanuel’s rabbi support.
“We will continue this relationship and we will build this relationship between our houses of worship and our peoples and we will strengthen them,” said Rabbi Michael Siegel, of Anshe Emet Synagogue.
But Brooks’ next step might be the hardest. He wants to build a $15 million community center in the often-violent West Woodlawn neighborhood.
“I didn’t have a plan to get the $450,000. I just trusted. I just believed, and I just had hope, and I just had faith,” Brooks said. “So, the same belief, the same hope, the same faith that got the $450,000 is the same belief, the same hope, the same faith that I’m going to use to get the $15 million.”
Exactly what Brooks will do to raise those millions isn’t clear yet. It’s unknown if the city will help; Emanuel didn’t take questions after the service.
Brooks called his stay on the motel roof a life-changing experience. Now, many in the neighborhood hope he’ll use that experience to change even more lives.