What I Loved About the Call and Response Conference
Because of his concern God sent Moses to deliver a clear message to Pharaoh: “Let my people go.”
Can you hear the cries of God’s people throughout history?
Through blood and white supremacy. Let my people go.
Through frogs and slavery. Let my people go.
Through gnats and black codes. Let my people go.
Through flies and sharecropping. Let my people go.
Through the death of livestock and lynching. Let my people go.
Through boils and Jim Crow segregation. Let my people go.
Through hail and voter suppression. Let my people go.
Through darkness and the war on drugs. Let my people go.
Through death of firstborn and mass incarceration. Let my people go.
Slavery in all of its forms must cease.
Go down Moses….way down to Egypt land. Tell old Pharaoh, let my people go.
I loved these words my friend Natasha Robinson read from her just-released book, A Sojourners Truth: Choosing Freedom and Courage in a Divided World.
One of three organizers of the Call and Response Conference in Rochester, NY last week, Natasha helped to set the theme of the conference: The Past, Present and Future of Black Christians in America.
Natasha called me several months ago to see if Cru would be a part of the gathering. Our “yes” answer took five of us to the campus of Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College on a crisp, fall day!“
Call and Response,” a traditional part of black church worship, should give you a clue that this was primarily a gathering of African American believers.
I loved the purpose: To call together church folks, marketplace and nonprofit leaders, pastors, practitioners, artists and activists from across generations to respond faithfully to the challenges and opportunities of the present moment in America. We seek to offer a prophetic witness to the church and the nation while remaining biblically grounded in a holistic gospel that has the power to transform lives and communities.
I loved the variety of people, of colors, of clothing, of spiritual traditions, of accents. Yet all were comfortable and congenial. So many good conversations.
I loved the voices of freedom and advocacy, of trust in God:
Sho Baraka: “Peace is not enough. Love is God's desire.”
Dr. Charles Dates: "The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find Him to be."
Dr. Christena Cleveland: “In John, the miracles were shown to all those living on the margins. It's so clear that God reveals Himself most intimately to the people who are oppressed."
Dr. Esau McCaulley: "Wherever there is suffering, there the church should be."
Rev. Santee Beatty: “For us reconciliation is not just a leadership issue, or even a diversity issue. It is an issue of discipleship.”
I loved the worship: Black choirs from a variety of church traditions lifted us high and settled us down. Everyone was fully engaged in praising our God.
I loved how our Cru people represented well:
Gwen Smith, co-director of oneness and diversity, wowed the crowded room with Brown Faces Navigating White Spaces. The audience identified as she described realities, challenges and outcomes. For example:
Reality: People of color are not seen as individuals.
Challenge: When I blow it, I blow it for a whole group of people who look like me.
Outcome: If I fail or make a mistake, it lessens the chances for those who come behind me.
Her personal experiences kept me either crying or laughing.
Rasool Berry, Cru Millenium team and teaching pastor at Bridge Church, Brooklyn, made it so clear that Jesus, Jubilee and Justice are totally intertwined. “Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jubilee: He releases us from our sin-debt, and instructs us to meet the needs of the marginalized among us."
Tabitha Morales, Campus Culture and Mission Leadership Coordinator, taught how to engage and help today’s students: “We can love college students by meeting their needs. Here are four main things I’ve seen in my time working on college campuses. All students need…assurance of acceptance, challenge, purpose and plan, and loving guidance.”
I loved the preaching: Every presenter seemed to have gone to the school of black preaching. So awesome. But the opening and closing pastors took us all to new heights.
Bishop Claude Alexander: “Our only hope is in the Lord. Not a political party or candidate. For those who look to the Lord, the LORD says: ‘Consider the rock from which you were cut’”--preaching from Isaiah 51:1-3
Dr. Marvin McMickle: "We can't stop here...We often want to stop on the wrong mountain and tell Jesus where it is good for us to be. But the Lord says 'you are satisfied too soon.' After the suffering will come something better."
I am grateful I got to be part of this. May I not stop on the wrong mountain, not be satisfied too soon. May the work God has been doing in my heart and mind be sharpened and accelerated because I was at the CARC—and may it lead to meaningful action.
What about you? Where might God be calling you?
C2018 Judy Douglass