According to Kirby Spivey ’98, assistant pastor of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., “You can never go wrong if you speak to the heart of the people.” He was born in Newtonville, N.J., an “up-south” city founded by some of his ancestors. According to Spivey, the culture of up-south settlements in the North came about when “migration after the Emancipation Proclamation led to the forming and keeping of southern customs.” Spivey grew up in the black church, specifically the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, which family members worked to create. The social mission that infused his upbringing in the church inspired work that now stretches beyond urban New York to Africa.
Spivey credits Bucknell for giving him a broad sense of world religions, something he notes as important for building tolerance in all people and even avoiding war. “War in the world is based on one way of thinking,” he says. “We need insight into people, rather than the systems ruling them.” He found the threat of Koran burning in Florida to commemorate September 11 particularly disturbing, describing the thwarted action as “utter ignorance and pure disrespect. How would I feel if people burned the Bible?”
Although Spivey began his studies at Bucknell as a pre-med major, he ultimately majored in religion and anthropology and minored in African-American studies. He attended Princeton Theological Seminary where he received master of divinity and master of theology degrees. Today, he is active in teaching and preaching in Brooklyn; however, his mission expands to Kenya, where he aids Machakos Baptist Church with a mobile education initiative. During his training, Spivey spent 11 weeks teaching at the church’s school and later connected with Machakos’ pastor, the Reverend John Mbinzi, through Facebook. Spivey plays an instrumental role in sending critical supplies to Kenya, helping to bring education to children who would otherwise be completely cut off from a better future due to economic misfortune. — Maria Jacketti