UMI Mourns the Loss of Founder, Dr. Melvin E. Banks

UMI Mourns the Loss of Founder, Dr. Melvin E. Banks


Dr. Melvin E. Banks, Sr.

UMI (Urban Ministries, Inc.) announced today that its founder Dr. Melvin E. Banks, Sr., died on Saturday, February 13, at 86. Dr. Banks launched UMI in 1970 to provide African American churches and individuals with images reflecting their congregations and relatable, Christ-centered content from an urban perspective.

“Dr. Banks was a revolutionary publisher and giant for the African American church and community,” said C. Jeffrey Wright, CEO of UMI. “He was the first to create contextualized content that portrayed positive images of African Americans in the Bible. Because of his innovation, UMI has reached millions of Black churches and individuals with the Gospel.”

For the last 50 years, under Dr. Banks’ leadership, UMI has developed Christian education resources, including Bible studies, Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School curriculum, websites, magazines, books, and videos for its 40,000+ strong customer base. He wrote a number of books and devotionals and hosted a two-minute daily podcast called Daily Direction. In 1995, he brought on Mr. Wright as CEO to take on the day-to-day management of the company. Many evangelical organizations have recognized his pioneering work, including the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), which presented him with its inaugural Kenneth N. Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

“So many people have been introduced to the life-changing message of Jesus because of Dr. Banks’ ground-breaking initiatives,” said Terri Hannett, Vice President of UMI. “For 50 years, UMI has produced discipleship content that was intellectually rigorous and uniquely relevant for the Black experience.”

Dr. Banks was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1934 and made a commitment to salvation at the age of 9 years old. He graduated from Moody Bible College in Chicago in 1955 and attended Wheaton College, earning a B.A. degree in theology in 1958 and his master’s degree in biblical studies in 1960. After graduation, he took a job at Scripture Press Publishers, where he struggled to sell euro-centric Sunday School content to African American churches. This experience led him to create contextual resources for African Americans with imagery and stories unique to their culture. After a few years, he left the company to start his own to expand the publishing content for Black churches.

Dr. Banks had served as board chair since 1994 after the passing of Tom Skinner, the founding board chair of UMI. On February 14, 2021, the UMI Board of Directors voted to appoint Dr. Stanley Long to the role of Chairman after serving as Vice Chairman for the past 45 years.

“Dr. Banks has been one of my closest friends for nearly 50 years,” said Dr. Stanley Long, Chairman of the UMI board. “I will miss him beyond what words can describe. He and I have shared the same vision and burden for as many years as we have been friends. As board chair, I will invest as much energy as he did to continue the work of UMI in the same direction it has journeyed from its inception, to impact the lives of as many men, women, and children as possible.”

Dr. Banks also planted the Westlawn Gospel Chapel church in Chicago and co-founded the Urban Outreach Foundation to reach pastors, lay leaders, and Christian educators through conferences and other resources. He also co-founded Circle Y Ranch, a Christian camp and conference center for urban youth. Dr. Banks received an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Wheaton College in 1992 and served as a Board Trustee.

Dr. Banks died from a month-long illness and is survived by his wife Olive and his three children Melvin Jr., Patrice Lee, and Reginald. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to Circle Y Ranch Bible Camp c/o UMI 1551 Regency Ct., Calumet City, IL 60409 or donate via the website: https://circleyranch.net referencing Dr. Banks. Resolutions and tributes can be sent to [email protected].

Bishop Vashti McKenzie Encourages Others Through New Gratitude Project

Bishop Vashti McKenzie Encourages Others Through New Gratitude Project

Video Courtesy of Black Enterprise


Bishop Vashti McKenzie has started her own project to inspire gratitude during COVID-19. The aptly named Gratitude Project focuses on inspiring feelings of gratitude, inspiration and joy to combat anxiety amid COVID-19.

“I’m often asked, ‘How do you stay positive in a crisis?’ The truth is that the pool of pessimism will call my name before the porch of positivity invites me to sit down,” said Bishop McKenzie in a news release. Bishop McKenzie serves as the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was the first woman elected to episcopal office in the more than two centuries history of the denomination.  “How you start your day is important. I practice my spiritual disciplines daily whether through prayer, praise, study, meditation, worship, fasting and more. I read devotionals or a book, and use various apps like Abide and Calm.”

McKenzie has partnered with April Ryan, White House correspondent and Washington, D.C. bureau chief for American Urban Radio Network; Carla Harris, renown financial expert and senior client advisor managing director at Morgan Stanley; Sybrina Fulton, founder of The Trayvon Martin Foundation; and American gospel musician Earnest Pugh. She’s encouraging everyone to send their gratitude moments in to be shared via social media. You can find additional words of gratitude at http://thisisyourwakeupcallonline.com and on Bishop Vashti’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

“I’m inviting everyone to join me in a special Gratitude Initiative: pray a gratitude prayer daily; write at least two things about what you’re grateful for, whether in your journal or recorded on your computer, tablet or cell phone; and share what you’re grateful for online or on social media,” said Bishop McKenzie in a news release. “Let’s get this gratitude train going and keep it going! You have to work for it, so love your neighbor as yourself. Let’s be partners in hope, carriers of optimism and purveyors of joy!”

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10 Two-Minute Podcast Shorts on Prayer

10 Two-Minute Podcast Shorts on Prayer

It’s hard to relax. We’re in an uncomfortable place right now. The future is unclear. Our leaders are not all stable. And the world economy is in flux. But God. He’s our anchor. His love never changes and we know that when we pray, it helps calm our heavy hearts and anxiety about the uncertainty of it all.  Below you’ll find a compilation of two-minute podcast shorts by Dr. Melvin E. Banks, founder of UMI, on prayer. We’ve pulled them from Dr. Banks’ daily radio program called Daily Direction, which covers a variety of issues and topics. So, turn the ringer off on your phone, find a quiet place, be still, and listen.


More on Prayer



Video Courtesy of THE BEAT by Allen Parr

Words of Encouragement from Urban Faith

Words of Encouragement from Urban Faith

We’ve seen the local and national news and, like you, our timelines and newsfeeds are filled with sad videos. However, it is important that we keep in mind that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. And even when times get hard, it is important to remember that God is always in control. So, with that being said, our staff has provided some brief words of encouragement that we have found to be helpful during difficult times. Stay strong!

 

1. Things are never as bad as they seem.

2. Let every challenge make you better, not bitter.

Brothers laughing and talking

3. Be patient.

Teenage Girl Visits Doctor's Office Suffering With Depression

3. As long as there’s breath in your body, there’s still hope.

Open hands

4. God’s got this!

Worship Silhouette

5. It’s o.k. to cry. Just remember that God will wipe away our tears in the midst of our pain.

Sad African American female with tears rolling down her face

6. Proverbs 3:5-6

Tired afro man with laptop

7. We serve a resurrected God. Our God is alive! Death doesn’t have the final say and neither does man.

 

Freedom and sun at the beach

25 Podcast Shorts on Love & Life

25 Podcast Shorts on Love & Life

So much can be said about love. The beloved 1 Corinthians verses, such as “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4–8a), are in many a wedding ceremony. But it’s when life gets hard that we draw on God’s love, who we love, and who loves us. Dr. Melvin E. Banks, the founder of UMI (Urban Ministries, Inc.), has 25 biblically based, two-minute podcast shorts that cover tough love, love and sorrow, love and relationships, beloved hymns, unconditional love, peace and love, and loving Jesus.

  1. How Does a Man Prove His Love for a Woman?
  2. Charles Tindley Was a Beloved Hymn Writer
  3. St. Augustine Wrote About Love for God and Others
  4. Napoleon Bonaparte Spoke About an Empire of Love
  5. How Much Do You Really Love Jesus?
  6. Dr. King dreamed of The Beloved Community
  7. How would you define love?
  8. Why is the hymn “Amazing Grace” loved so much?
  9. One mother loved her son so much she took 7 buses to see him
  10. Parents still love their children after discipline is over
  11. The Prodigal Son’s story powerfully illustrates God’s love
  12. Genuine love often persuades people to follow Jesus Christ
  13. Love can express itself in many ways
  14. Love is a powerful motivator
  15. Grieving the loss of a loved one can be very painful
  16. A son abandoned his country, but his father still loved him.
  17. The need for love never goes out of style
  18. God’s infinite love can boggle the human mind
  19. Love is not just something you feel; it’s something you do
  20. Bill’s wife helped him understand love in a new way
  21. Someone came up with a list of 49 ways we can show love
  22. African Americans love to sing, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”
  23. Here is how one insightful author describes love
  24. The dove is a symbol of peace and love
  25. How do you show unconditional love?