New church in Wauwatosa aims for diversity, addresses segregation

T.J. Brasted, Matt Butters and Terrance Slaughter chat at the Tosa Family Game Night at Hoyt Park inWauwatosa on Dec. 4. The game night was sponsored by City of Light, a new church coming to the Milwaukee /Wauwatosa area in 2016.

T.J. Brasted, Matt Butters and Terrance Slaughter chat at the Tosa Family Game Night at Hoyt Park inWauwatosa on Dec. 4. The game night was sponsored by City of Light, a new church coming to the Milwaukee /Wauwatosa area in 2016. Photo By Cain Enterprise/submitted photo

Dec. 9, 2015

While it's no secret that Milwaukee and its surrounding communities have a reputation of racial segregation, a new church in the Wauwatosa and Milwaukee area aims for diversity and unity across different ethnic and cultural groups.

"I just really got rocked to my core about the state that Greater Milwaukee was in, and how there were so many issues that seemed to circulate around race and segregation," said Pastor Brian McKee, describing how the idea of City of Light Church came to him and his wife, Joelynett.

"God really just rocked our hearts and really moved us to [ask] "How could we get involved and make a difference where we see people from every culture, every ethnicity come together and positively impact Greater Milwaukee?"

Partnering with The Ridge Community Church in Greenfield, and a network of several other local Christian churches, City of Light aspires to be a diverse and contemporary church in the Milwaukee-Wauwatosa area.

The 53222 and 53226 ZIP codes are where the launch team is looking to locate the church for its opening in fall 2016.

"53222 is one of the most diverse, racially diverse, ZIP codes in the state," McKee said.

As noted in a recent CNN story, the racial demographics in Milwaukee County show that African-Americans mostly reside in the city and some nearby suburbs. African-Americans and Hispanics make up more than half of Milwaukee's population, with their representation sharply dropping in Milwaukee's surrounding counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington.

"The segregation issue in Milwaukee has reached this worldwide network, where they're now doing stories on why you find so many different ethnicities just separated in the city," McKee said. "Although there aren't any physical gates, there are things that keep certain ethnicities from moving to certain areas."

"What City of Light wants to do, and what we are doing, is creating safe environments for people to come together, have fun together, just hang out together — but let that be the start of individuals, cross-culturally, coming together, learning about one another and then appreciating differences and seeing how those differences can help to solve some of the issues that we see here in Greater Milwaukee," McKee said.

McKee, who will be leading the launch, has spent the last fourteen years working in the corporate and nonprofit world — all the while, he and Joelynett have also been serving in youth and campus ministry.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni, McKee holds an undergraduate degree in business administration and a master's in information security and assurance.

"It's been known for decades that when you have teams that come together from different ethnicities, different cultures, different experience, that those teams are more innovative, and they're more creative in solving business problems," McKee said.

McKee left the business world for full-time ministry in October. He's been serving a residency at The Ridge Community Church in Greenfield, being mentored and trained for launching City of Light in 2016.

"Myself and another pastor here in the area, we really had a heart for some of the segregation issues that are obviously a big problem in Milwaukee — and it's not just racial, but it's religious. So we said, wouldn't it be great if we could get churches across denominational lines to begin to partner together and to pool some resources together to start healthy new churches together," The Ridge's lead pastor, Mark Weigt, said.

"We don't think Brian came to us by accident at all. And this new church, we think, could be a catalyst for some of that movement to take place."

Since October of 2014, the McKees have been leading groups in serving the community in various ways.

Every other Saturday, the teams will pick up trash in the neighborhoods along 45th Street to 47th Street, from Burleigh to Locust streets. The response from the residents in that area has been overwhelmingly positive, McKee said.

City of Light also currently has a job-training program for the unemployed and underemployed. These types of community-impact activities, along with programs that facilitate discussions about race and culture, will also be part of the church.

"When you look at the heart of God, you see that the communication across cultures, across color lines, across ethnicity, is so important to him," McKee said, referencing the book of Ephesians in the Bible. "Through Jesus Christ, these different ethnicities, these different cultures, these different backgrounds all have a place in this new man, this new structure, this new entity that Christ came to bring."

"It's through those different ethnicities, those different cultures, that we see the full love of God being brought to earth."

For more information about joining City of Light's launch team, visit

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