On January 10-12, 2017, a delegation of 78 clergy and laity traveled to Atlanta for the 10th Anniversary of the Convocation for Pastors of Black Churches. Interestingly, as the idea to attend unfolded, the number of attendees began to grow before my eyes. Historically, the convocation for Pastors of Black Churches has been a place for black pastors to worship, fellowship and network. In the last 10 years, I have witnessed the convocation grow in size, mission and advocacy focus and “learning” components on leadership development, spiritual formation, discipleship, stewardship, evangelism and outreach.
I want to thank all participants for taking the leap of faith to experience a convocation that was notable only for black pastors. I invited the Cabinet, black and anglo pastors serving black churches, black pastors in cross-racial/cross-cultural appointments and Latino/Hispanic pastors. I want to thank the Offices of Connectional Ministry, Congregational Excellence and the Virginia Conference Foundation for partnering with the Virginia Focus 20/20 to make this experience a reality.
The theme for the convocation was “Called to Fresh Vision.” Its focus was based on Revelation 21:5. The convocation traditionally begins with an opening worship service by the convener, the Rev. Dr. Vance Ross. This year we were blessed with the gifts and graces of Dr. Cynthia Wilson, the Rev. Dr. Mike Bowie, the Rev. Dr. Emanuel Cleaver, the Rev. Dr. Junius Dotson, the Rev. Dr. Kevas Harding, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Daniel, the Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls, the Rev. Dr. Rose Booker-Jones, the Rev. Telley Gadson, the Rev. Jasmine Smothers, the Rev. LeKisha Reed, the Rev. Victor Cyrus-Franklin, the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, Bishop James Swanson Sr., Bishop Tracy Smith Malone, Bishop Frank Beard, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi and yours truly, who were all instrumental in leading worship and workshops. All of the presenters and preachers were masterful in their area of expertise and knowledge. The plenaries included: Vision for Worship, Pastoral Vision, A Vision for Discipleship Development, Fresh Vision for the People, Fresh Vision for Community Engagement and Taking a Fresh Vision Back Home. There was one statement about “visioning” that continued to resonate with me throughout the convocation: “A Vision is Big! Quit asking for the large print when you keep thinking small.”
There was an intimate plenary conversation with the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village UMC, who gave us a glimpse of “Inside the Pastor’s Studio” where he shared his personal ministry accomplishments and struggles, the responsibility of the church in this new political climate and the need for change in our ministry context. I was blessed to share on Wednesday evening a sermon entitled “Write the Vision,” scripturally based on Habakkuk 2:2-3. I highlighted four key points: 1) a vision is birthed out of a concern, 2) a vision provides clarity, 3) a vision brings a sense of moral conviction and 4) though the vision may tarry “wait for it.” After my sermon, in an attempt to be vulnerable about my Episcopal campaign challenges in 2012, I sought to be humorous and self-effacing. I had a poor choice of words about my appearance and by implication, that of others. I humbly apologize for those words, and ask for forgiveness from any who were offended. All people are beautiful, created in God’s image and deserve both respect and love. The worship experience was followed by the traditional Communion service that was spirit-filled and transformative, led by Bishop James Swanson Sr.
During the convocation, there were several altar calls that allowed for us to reaffirm our Baptism, to be anointed and receive the gift of healing and reconciliation in the body of Christ. In closing, the convocation provided a space for information, inspiration and encouragement of pastors of black churches. I look forward to the next convocation in 2019!