Milwaukee Bucks players praise Evolve Church for its community focus

Milwaukee Bucks players praise Evolve Church for its community focus

Elected officials from the state, Milwaukee County and the city, as well as faith community leaders and members of the Milwaukee Bucks gathered in a once vacant facility on the city’s northwest side Saturday afternoon to attend the groundbreaking of a new space for Evolve Church and Community, 6550 N. 76th St.

The church was founded by senior pastor Kenneth Lock II and had been operating out of Vincent High School, but once Milwaukee Public Schools closed during the coronavirus pandemic the church looked for a more permanent residence and purchased the 320,000-square-foot facility.

Standing among steel frames and exposed pipes, Lock II said the day was important because it represented something tangible for the community to see.

“It means a lot because what it does is it brings awareness — it doesn’t matter how much you want to spend in the community, if you can’t touch them they don’t know you exist,” he said. “It just is what it is, so it brings awareness and it also gives us an opportunity to create more partnerships.

“I’m a firm believer in you help more people together, so we’re just one church, one congregation, we’ve been blessed to be able to do a lot, but as we come together we’ll be able to serve so many more people. That’s my main focus — we’re here, but we’re not here alone. We decided to be here with you guys.”

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The church is scheduled to open to the public in June.

“We’re definitely putting a community emphasis because the church really only meets on Sundays, so how do we serve the community the other six days of the week?” Lock II said. 

Evolve Church will feature indoor park, also offer mental health and financial literacy programs

Part of the footprint is a 23,000-square-foot indoor park and play area residents can bring their children to for free, and a coffee center for those in need of work space. Lock II said Anodyne Coffee has partnered with the church to support that space.

Part of the presentation to a group of about 100 people was how the church will offer mental health and financial literacy programs, as well as tutoring and mentorship for children.

“It’s going to be a vibrant addition to the northwest side of the city,” City of Milwaukee Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson said. “It’s investments like this that help to move our city forward, providing opportunities for folks in our city to engage and to engage with their faith. We talk about addressing the most important issues in Milwaukee, we talk about creating jobs, family-supporting jobs to lift people out of poverty, that’s what this development is doing right now.”

Along with Johnson, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley spoke. Johnson and Crowley presented the church with official proclamations.

Crowley said the church and facility will provide a “North star” for the members of the community and Barnes added his thanks to Lock II and the church leadership for building relationships and helping local minority-owned businesses during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the city.

Ald. Chantia Lewis, whose district includes the new facility, and Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman also attended the event

Bucks players Middleton, Holiday and Hill praise Evolve church, opportunities it offers for Milwaukee

Lock II is also the official team chaplain of the Bucks and Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and George Hill attended to offer support.

“It means a lot, not only for (Lock II) but for the city,” Middleton said. “Having conversations with him all the time about how he wanted to do something big for the community where he was from, where it could be a community center and where people can come and worship. Just to have this idea and to be able to put it here in front of us and have the foundation started, I know was a huge goal for him. I’m excited for him also. To put his plan into actual, not just words, to put it here in a building — it’s a huge building — it’s going to do nothing but help and provide positive energy, positive vibes for the whole city.”

Added Hill: “It’s huge not just for us, not just for him, but for the City of Milwaukee. It gives young men, young women opportunities to come to a place where they feel like they don’t have to be someone who they’re not. Just by going to his sermons on Sunday, he makes you feel welcome, he makes you feel like you’re a part of the family and he puts his sermons in today’s perspective. That’s what I really enjoy. But for him to be able to open up his own church and community center, it’s very impactful for the community which is really needed right now with all the violence that’s going on around us.”

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Middleton and Hill have been part of the Evolve congregation for several years, and Hill did a brief question-and-answer session with Lock II on service as part of the ceremony. Holiday began attending the church after he was traded to Milwaukee last season.

“Just being a Christian and my relationship with Christ, you look for a church — and not only a church — you look for a community,” Holiday said. “And Ken’s done a lot for his community. I know when I first came and even before when we were talking about Kenosha and walking and being proud of Milwaukee, not only Kenny, but Khris and Giannis and George and those guys all supported him and helped Kenny. Once I got here, it just kind of happened. I think just to find a place where I feel comfortable with me and my family going and feeling part of the community, Kenny’s done a great job and that’s why we’re here to support him.”

Contact Jim Owczarski at jowczarski@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @JimOwczarski or Facebook at facebook.com/JOwczarski.

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