Rev. James McCray served as a senior minister at Jones Memorial United Methodist Church from 1982 until 2002 and was an integral figure in the construction of the new Jones Memorial Church in the Western Addition. While the project cost upwards of six million dollars, Rev. McCray viewed it as an investment in the future of African American life in San Francisco, saying, “Opening this church is about hope. It gives hope that all African American folks don’t have to leave San Francisco. Not only can they stay but we can stay and participate in making this city better” (Garofoli).
San Francisco has seen its African American population drop dramatically due to the combination of botched Western Addition redevelopment plans and increasing racial gentrification. The neighborhood has a rich religious history, with three churches that are more than 150 years old. In recent years, however, attendance at Sunday services has declined. While Rev. McCray acknowledged that constructing a new church would not bring back the African American population by itself, he saw the church as an opportunity to restore the sense of community in the Western Addition.
McCray strived to create low-income housing options in San Francisco to combat the gentrification that has rapidly changed the city. Along with four San Francisco ministers, McCray founded the Tabernacle Community Development Corporation (TCDC). The organization seeks to preserve cultural diversity in San Francisco by providing social service programs and opportunities to try and halt the mass departure of minorities and impoverished people from San Francisco. It strives to cultivate communities through the development of livable, affordable housing. Located in Bayview-Hunters Point, the TCDC has invested millions of dollars into housing projects. The five collective parishes own and sponsor over 1,000 units of housing for low-income citizens throughout San Francisco. They seek to sponsor rental properties for African American families to buy, in order to increase African American ownership in San Francisco. This was a step toward connecting ministers and community members from across the country to create similar organizations in their respective communities.
Rev. James McCray has supported countless community projects, working to improve numerous San Francisco neighborhoods.
Aside from working for improved housing options for low-income and senior citizens, the TCDC has founded and assisted several other community improvement projects throughout its three decades of existence. In the 1990s, it established the Young African American Achievers program, an after-school program focused on tutoring elementary school children who fall below the 50th percentile on standardized tests.
In 1995, the TCDC was given a grant by former California Governor Gray Davis and used the funds to start the Ujimaa program. This prompted their work with the State of California’s Employment Development Department to serve more than 400 clients and families with the transition from jail to work, combating chronic unemployment, and offering skills training. This led to the formation of the No Violence Alliance (NOVA) Project which organizes to support ex-offenders in the Western Addition, Mission District, and Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhoods, addressing issues of recidivism.
James McCray’s work in the Western Addition and San Francisco as a whole has helped prevent the mass flight of African Americans and other minority groups from the city. Rev. McCray has worked to preserve community identity and diversity in the Western Addition and helped reestablish Jones Memorial United Methodist Church as a community center. He is currently serving as vice president of the San Francisco Human Services Commission, where he plans to administer federal, state, and local programs designed to meet basic human needs and ensure protection for some of San Francisco’s most vulnerable citizens. Along with the TCDC and the support of other faith leaders in the Western Addition and Bayview–Hunters Point neighborhoods, Rev. James McCray has participated in and supported countless community projects, working tirelessly to improve San Francisco for all who live here.
— Marcelo Swofford and Anthony Norman
Garofoli, Joe. “Saving Grace of Inner City.” SF Gate. 30 Jan 2012.
“Home.” Tabernacle Community Development Corporation-SF.
“Human Services Commission.” San Francisco Human Services Agency.
“Mayor Lee Swears in New Appointments and Reappointments to City Boards and Commissions” Office of the Mayor, City and County. of San Francisco. 7 Mar 2016.