African-American clergy draw strength from one another at convocation



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

African-American clergy draw strength from one another at convocation

By J.A. Buchholz | Feb. 19, 2009 {0975}

Nearly 400 African-American clergy, conference leaders and students gathered earlier this year in Houston, Texas, for a time of renewal and refreshment and the opportunity to share the challenges unique to their ministries.

The Rev. Geraldine McClellan addresses participants at the 2009 Convocation for Pastors of African-American Churches. A UMNS photo by Eleanor L. Colvin. Photo #09-1103. For longer description see photo gallery.

Denominational leaders and several Florida Conference clergy who attended the 2009 Convocation for Pastors of African-American Churches say it’s an event that’s vital to the ministry of African-American pastors.

“It’s such a time to be refreshed,” said the Rev. Candace Lewis, pastor of New Life Community Church in Jacksonville, Fla. “You become refilled with the Spirit. It’s a time of inspiration. It’s a time of networking. It’s a time to become refueled to do Christ’s work.”

Lewis, who has attended five convocations, was one of the plenary/worship leaders at the conference, themed “Building Bridges into the Future.” Sponsored by The United Methodist General Board of Discipleship, the event was designed for African-American pastors, bishops, district superintendents, conference staff and leaders, seminarians and pastoral candidates. Daily plenary sessions focused on such topics as mentoring and technology, providing practical tools for ministry.

Lewis said the bi-annual event doesn’t have collective goals, but instead seeks to leave a more intangible fingerprint on those directly involved in working with black churches.

The Rev. Vance P. Ross, deputy general secretary for External Connectional Relations and Strategic Initiatives for The United Methodist General Board of Discipleship, said African-American pastors are often are culturally, ministerially and relationally isolated.

“While often unintended, the insidious nature of negative racial history perpetuates distrust in our distinctions,” he said. “This moment of encouragement, inspiration and information connects pastors, on several levels, to colleagues across The United Methodist Church for help, health and wholeness.”

The Rev. Geraldine McClellan, pastor of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Gainesville, Fla., and former superintendent of the Florida Conference’s North Central District, said the event is important because it seeks to encourage African-American clergy, who often deal with a set of struggles unique to the African-American church.

“Many times African-American clergy become disillusioned,” said McClellan, who also served as a plenary/worship leader. “This is an opportunity for them to see how God can transform and use them. Here is a place where they can hear the stories from other clergy who have many times been through the same things they are experiencing.”

The Rev. Vance Ross addresses convocation participants. A UMNS photo by Eleanor L. Colvin. Photo #09-1104. For longer description see photo gallery.

McClellan, who has attended four convocations, said the workshops take on a different meaning when the participants all struggle with the same obstacles. She said the atmosphere is more conducive to sharing profound hurts and pains when there is a knowledge that there is a shared bond between participants.

“People can easily connect and identify,” she said. “Sometimes clergy would rather not share their deep feelings with others, but here is a setting where they can hang loose.”

Lamont Hogans, a member of New Life Community Church in Jacksonville and a first-time attendee of the event, said he thrived on the comradery of the event.

Hogans, who serves as minister of music, said he will take many of the ideas he learned at the event and try to implement them at his church. He said found information about marketing and reaching out into the community particularly helpful.

“I would absolutely attend again,” Hogans said. “It was very good.”

Ross said the event “offers a common place, common ground and common experience for these pastors to learn, refresh and refocus.”

”The Convocation is a re-creating experience, one that allows re-visioning and the occasion to hear God call anew,” he said.

McClellan agreed. “Here is a place where I can be met at my lowest point, and I can be fed at my point of need,” she said. “It is like a fueling station … because here is a place where they can hear the stories of people who have been through the same things they have been through, and they can realize it’s not too late. People can connect and identify with one another and share their deepest feelings.”

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.




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