When the Rev. Jonathan Weaver and his congregation were turned down for a $50,000 bank loan to renovate a church building in 1992, it was the beginning of a new era for county churches.
Weaver didn't know it at the time, but that experience would be the genesis of a coalition of African American ministers who since 1995 have been able to secure $75 million to help fellow churches and church members build churches, start buildings and purchase homes.
"We really believe that our purpose and mission is to see more people empowered economically," said Weaver, founder and president of Collective Banking Group. Today, the group is a coalition of 215 Washington area churches that last year signed an agreement with five area banks who will make available $100 million in loans to the church community.
When Weaver's congregation, Greater Mount Nebo AME Church in Upper Marlboro, was initially denied a bank loan, he appealed directly to the bank president. (He tells this story often, but will not reveal the bank's name).
Weaver recalled telling bank officials that his 750 parishioners would think twice about ever doing business there again.
Weaver said the official just listened and didn't say much. A few days later, Weaver got a call from the bank saying that the loan had been approved.
Weaver also is on a mission to encourage pastors to be financially accountable in their management of church funds.
"There is no doubt that churches must maintain a real spirit of accountability, and ministers be proper stewards over the money God has instructed us to care for," Weaver said. "Not only do our members expect this of us, but God does."
Weaver, 49, a Rockville native, is part of a new generation of ministers in Prince George's who are both well-educated and charismatic. He received a bachelor's degree from Washington University in St. Louis, an MBA from Harvard in 1975 and theological degree from St. Mary's Seminary in 1984.
Weaver's congregation has nearly 2,000 members, and he says his efforts to help the community through the Collective Banking Group is the fulfillment of a dream that he hopes will continue in the new century.
"I never really had any desire to enter the corporate world in a direct way," said Weaver who became a minister in 1980. "Even when I went to business school, I saw the ability to apply principles I learned in business to serve the community."
CAPTION: The Rev. Jonathan Weaver