Preparing congregations for mission is focus of Black Ministries Triennial Conference

July 19, 2008

The development of a strategic plan that will help congregations prepare for their role in God's mission in the world will be the focus of Black Ministries 8th Triennial Conference, set for October 19-23 at the Intercontinental New Orleans Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana.


The conference, with the theme "Grant Us Wisdom, Grant Us Courage: For the Living of these Days" will bring diverse groups together to identify challenges facing black and multicultural congregations and blacks in predominantly white congregations, while exploring best practices and life-giving details to continue the work of the New Ventures Task Force, which was charged with developing the strategic plan. In consultation with Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina and Bishop Suffragan Chester Talton of the Diocese of Los Angeles, the task force has been gathering information since June 20, 2007.

The Rev. Canon Angela Ifill, program officer for Black Ministries, explained that the idea for the strategic plan was born following attendance at a Start Up! Start Over! (SUSO) seminar. She said that she and the Rev. Carleton Hayden, assisting priest at St. Georges, Washington, DC and the Rev. Robert Wright, rector, St. Paul's, Atlanta, Georgia, thought of a design to bring to congregations that may not have the resources to send a representative to SUSO.

"In the past, the triennial conference was limited to ordained leaders only" said Ifill. "However, the topic is of such importance that participation has been expanded to include the voices of lay leaders, young adults, Anglicans from other provinces, and ecumenical colleagues."

"It is especially important that all bishops and lay persons, including young adults and clergy, are at the table for conversation and be a part of the shaping of the future of the church," said the Rev. Dr. Martini Shaw, conference co-dean and rector of historic St. Thomas African Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

According to Ifill, the New Ventures task force's work will continue with an initial presentation to bishops in March and a church-wide launch in April 2009.

Fellowship and renewal
The conference, which will bring together black clergy from the U. S., Canada, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean and Latin America, will also include an Afro-Anglican conversation that will be led by the Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Rev. Dr. Kortright Davis, rector, Holy Comforter, and professor, Howard University School of Divinity, Washington, D.C.

"This conference provides an opportunity for all clergy of color to gather together for renewal and relaxation and to grapple with the challenging issues facing the whole church," said the Rev. Susan Keller, conference co-dean and rector of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Shaw said they look forward to gathering every three years in order to "pray together, study, reflect, discern, and fellowship together."

Curry will deliver the keynote address on October 21. Bishop Eugene Sutton of the Diocese of Maryland, Bishop Orris G. Walker of the Diocese of Long Island and retired Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris of the Diocese of Massachusetts will lead Eucharist services throughout the five-day event. The bishops will also participate in a panel during the conference.

Talton will lead the conference in a daily encounter with scripture and prayer. The Rev. Dr. Michael Battle, canon theologian of the Diocese of Los Angeles and priest-in-charge of Church of Our Saviour, San Gabriel, California; the Rev. Dr. Monrelle Williams, rector of St. Augustine's Church, Oakland, California; and the Rev. Dr. Sandye Wilson, rector of St. Andrew and Holy Communion Church, South Orange, New Jersey, will bring theological reflections to the ongoing discussions.

In addition, Bishop Charles Jenkins of the Diocese of Louisiana will provide opportunities for participants to volunteer for hurricane recovery projects in New Orleans.

The conference will include tracks for clergy and lay leaders; a women's gathering; and the Spiritual Opportunity to Unite and Learn (SOUL) conference.

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