Hug-a-thug. That was the late Bishop Sherwood Carthen’s pet term for his anti-gang efforts. A few years ago he teamed up with Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers to craft “Cops and Clergy,” a partnership between law enforcement and the religious community to stem gang violence in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the city. Chief Somers says “it worked wonderfully.”
No one was more affected by Carthen’s death than the chief. When he heard about the bishop’s passing on Wednesday, he and a number of his top officers rushed to the hospital.
“I was crushed,” the chief said. “I admired him greatly, a man full of love, full of compassion. He was here to make a difference.”
Using his own unique brand of Christian love and tough talk, Carthen, often accompanied by uniformed police officers, would visit at-risk youths in their homes and in jail. He offered troubled young men a vision of a different, healthier way to live, along with practical assistance for getting there – such as real jobs.
The senior pastor of Bayside Church of South Sacramento suffered a heart attack and died unexpectedly on Wednesday. He was only 54 years old. His passing leaves a spiritual void in our community and a huge civic gap that will be very hard to bridge.
An enormous man, 6 feet 4 inches tall and 350 pounds, Carthen commanded attention, and not because of his girth. He had a gift for language which made him a charismatic preacher who stirred thousands who flocked to Bayside of South Sacramento, the congregation he founded in 2005. He was well known by local basketball fans as the chaplain of the Kings, affectionately referred to at Sleep Train Arena as “The Rev.”
As his friend Mayor Kevin Johnson said, Carthen “led not only with powerful words from the pulpit but by extending his ministry beyond the walls of the church.”
He was known for his anti-gang efforts, but he also was a force in our community’s decades-long struggle to end homelessness. In fact, just the day before he died, Carthen spoke at a fundraising event to help homeless people.
Bishop Sherwood Carthen leaves a wife and two children and a grateful city that is kinder, healthier and safer because of his good works. The community’s challenge now is to build on Carthen’s legacy with the same spirit and determination that he embodied.