Participants learn about acceptance during final afternoon of ABHMS’ ‘You Are Not Alone’ virtual conference

On the final afternoon of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) three-afternoon virtual conference “You Are Not Alone: A Space for Grace Retreat,” homilist the Rev. Dr. Gary V. Simpson explored Psalm 121, and presenter the Rev. Dr. Naomi Kohatsu Paget discussed the transforming power of acceptance.

Simpson is lead pastor of Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, N.Y., and a member of ABHMS’ board of directors. Paget is a chaplain and crisis interventionist for the FBI and for disaster-relief organizations—such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army—as well as a Judson Press author. The conference was presented on ABHMS’ social networking platform, ministrElife.

Simpson explained that because of how the first sentence of the Psalm is punctuated—with a comma instead of a period after hills—people often read it as if help is coming from the hills. (I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth [KJV].) Instead, he said, it should be read with a period after hills and the next portion as a question (From whence cometh my help?) and answer (My help cometh from the Lord.)

The Psalm was for traveling on holy days to temple for worship and festivals, Simpson said. Pilgrims would station lookouts in the hills to warn them of attack by evil-minded individuals, such as thieves and rapists. However, he added, that as human beings, the lookouts were just as weary from the journey as those below who were permitted to sleep. Thus he made the connection to pastors and lay leaders today who are just as weary as those to whom they are ministering.

In introducing the transforming power of acceptance, Paget shared about her own journey of grief after losing her 17-year-old son to a skiing accident.

“Grieving is like wilderness wandering,” she said. “I couldn’t seem to get out of the wilderness; I wandered in circles, often returning to the same place again and again. Then, one day, I heard the Lord: ‘Arise, and cross this Jordan.’ We have to make a conscious choice to reach the land the Lord has set aside for us. I made a choice to enter into the promised land.

“The Jordan,” she explained, “is a place of transition.”

For the remainder of the presentation, she provided time for participants to reflect and post in the chat room their answers to various questions, such as “What will the promised land look like for you?” “In your grief and sorrow, what are you willing to surrender during this age of pandemic?” “You may have to make intentional choices between the time of lamenting in the wilderness and the time of acceptance. What kind of choices will you have to make to accept the promised land? What will that be like for you?” “What are you not willing to accept?”

She finished with asking participants to meditate silently, asking the great potter to repair their brokenness.

“He will make you beautiful and stronger,” she said, “when He repairs you with golden threads of love.”

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