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Published: Monday, 7/16/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

Preacher returns to streets, ministry after prison release

Lake receives praise for charity work in community

Street preacher Charles ‘Slim' Lake displays a copy of ‘The Now Testament: Featuring the New Gospel,' which he wrote while in prison.
Street preacher Charles ‘Slim' Lake displays a copy of ‘The Now Testament: Featuring the New Gospel,' which he wrote while in prison.
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More than a year out of prison, the former street preacher Charles "Slim" Lake is looking to restart his ministry — and to start a new chapter in his life.

A self-styled reverend, Lake became well known in Toledo area for running services in Gunckel Park for his God's Church of the Streets. He has received praise for his charity work in the community but also attracted controversy for his frequent brushes with the law.

In 2001, he was convicted of loan-sharking and trafficking in food stamps, but won early release from prison in 2003. In 2010, he finished a six-year stint for money laundering and forgery related to a series of fund-raisers for his church.

For his part, Lake argues that all the money went to helping his constituents. "It's God's money," he routinely says.

But now he's now out of prison, and he's written a book. Titled The Now Testament: Featuring the New Gospel, Lake self-published the book with financial support from his family.

He described its contents as "street stories with a spiritual ramification," which constitute the "3rd Testament of the Holy Bible." He wants to use the book as an instructional tool in the reconstituted God's Church of the Streets.

All the proceeds from the book, he said, would be used to support charitable activities administered by his church, which is still in the midst of being set up.

Lake said he didn't go to prison planning to write a book. The idea grew out of sermons he was sending from prison for his church to use in his absence. Eventually, he said, God inspired him to complete a full work.

Lake then busied himself with writing and editing the book, which has been his main occupation since his release.

Rather than theological training, Lake described his credentials as a "calling" from God.

He said a seminary couldn't teach the kind of skills necessary to minister in the streets.

"They're not out here showing love in action," he said of traditional churches.

A former pimp and drug addict, Lake makes no secret of the criminal background that preceded the establishment of God's Church of the Streets. His personal story helps explain his ability to connect with the poor and the homeless as a street preacher, he said.

Eddie Allen, a longtime friend, said, "He's extremely genuine. He is them. He's not a man who hides that he struggled with his own addiction or grew up extremely poor."

It's this quality that attracts many of his supporters, despite his criminal convictions.

"My honest feeling is that Reverend Slim has done more good than he will get credit for having done," Mr. Allen said. "All the things he was convicted for were in the effort of helping the church."

Lake admitted to certain violations, such as trafficking in food stamps and running illegal fund-raisers. But he denied others, particularly that he ever held food stamps as collateral on a loan.

Still, Lake said he doesn't regret his past. The cause of helping the poor and marginalized, he argued, justified whatever laws he may have broken. But, at 56, Lake said he's tired of prison. Looking across the table wearily, he said, "Its time for me to become a legal man."

Contact Casey Sumner at: csumner@theblade.com or 419-724-6084.

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