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In 1979, he became the first black minister of all-white Hillside Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Georgia, making him a unique leader among the 4,000 Presbyterian congregations in the United States. In 1986, he was elected the first African American pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights, New York. Throughout his ministry in various churches, he has consciously moved his congregations toward being explicitly multi-cultural and multi-racial, as well as more politically active and welcoming of LGBTQ communities.
Hendrickson examines his pastoral care and his increased work with corporations, colleges, and charitable foundations. Building Beloved Communities details the complicated life of a man dedicated to serving as a bridge between Christianity, community activism, public health institutions, and the business world.
Based on archival research, historical analysis, and original interviews with Smith and his colleagues, Hildi Hendrickson offers a critical biography of the preacher and his work from the 1960s to the present.
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