ABHMS presents second afternoon of ‘You Are Not Alone’ virtual conference

Ministers and lay leaders recently participated in the second afternoon of the three-afternoon virtual “You Are Not Alone: A Space for Grace Retreat,” presented by American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) on its social networking platform, ministrElife. The purpose of the retreat was to provide renewal to those who are ministering to others yet need healing themselves during this challenging time of COVID-19 and racial unrest.

The online event began with sharing a word cloud that was created with words and phrases of lament that were provided by last week’s participants.

“You are not alone,” homilist the Rev. Dr. Zina Jacque, lead pastor of Community Church, Barrington Ill., told participants. “I know because I read it in the letter to Hebrews, which says, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

She reminded participants that God spoke to Elijah not via the wind, earthquake or fire but in a still, small voice.

Presenter the Rev. Dr. Amy Greene, who heads a team of chaplains as director of Spiritual Care for the Cleveland Clinic Health System, led participants through a study of Psalm 139.

“We have all been experiencing the full range of human emotion,” she said, noting that Psalm 139, likewise, presents the full range of emotion.

Greene began the study by asking participants to jot down in a journal all the items they feel that they have lost or are grieving because of COVID-19.

“It could be small, like ‘my doughnut shop closed,’ or it could be huge like, ‘I couldn’t go to my father’s funeral,’” she said.

She read Psalm 139 aloud to participants, breaking it up into sections of six verses. After each grouping of six, participants were prompted to write their feelings in their journals.

Because the last six verses speak to feelings of rage over injustice, Greene ended with directives about racism.

She said that it’s white people’s job to educate themselves, noting that it’s not black people’s jobs to teach white people about racism. She recommended that white people of faith should start by reading the book “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi.

“Being against racism is so different from being passively nice,” she said.

“Get a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirt, and get out and protest,” she said. “Put yourself on the line. And don’t expect a pat on the back for it.”

In her benediction, Jacque echoed Greene’s directives. She noted that Greene’s presentation brought to mind Romans 12 and being a living sacrifice.

“How might we be a living sacrifice?” she asked. “Will it be putting on a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirt? Might it be interrupting a conversation that has racist undertones?”

The virtual conference will continue 1-3 p.m. June 30. Register online.

To receive continuing education credits for attending this conference, chaplains, pastoral counselors and specialized ministers should contact ABHMS’ Patricia Murphy at Patricia.Murphy@abhms.org, while clergy and other ministry professionals should contact ABHMS’ Salvador Orellana at Salvador.Orellana@abhms.org.