Black convocation to offer ministry helps for all

By Paula Schlueter Ross

News flash: The Black Ministry Family Convocation — set for July 9-13 in Kansas City, Mo. — isn’t just for African-Americans.

black-convo-2-INHeld every other year, the convocation is for anyone who’s interested in:

  • gaining tips for taking ministry out into the community,
  • learning how to witness your faith to others,
  • starting and operating a congregational youth program,
  • serving as a missionary, and
  • taking part in “invigorating, engaging, refreshing” worship services, according to the Rev. Roosevelt Gray, director of Black Ministry with the LCMS Office of National Mission.

The convocation is open to “anyone in the Synod,” says Gray. “It’s not for black people only — anybody can come and be part of it.”

The 6,150 congregations that make up The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod include some 300 that are considered to be in “black ministry.” That is, they include African-Americans or African immigrants and are located primarily in urban areas, according to Gray.

The convocations are held to bring together members of those far-flung black-ministry congregations for worship, Bible study, workshops, plenary sessions, fellowship and business.

This year’s event — held under the theme “Worship, Word, Witness” — includes a full day of witnessing workshops led by Lutheran Hour Ministries staff in four tracks: reaching out to families or specific family members, pop culture and engaging a non-Christian worldview, personal witnessing for beginners, and congregational outreach.

During one of the special convocation luncheons, staff from the Office of National Mission’s (ONM) youth department will offer ideas and resources designed to help congregations sponsor a successful youth ministry.

Another luncheon will feature Synod missionary Shara Cunningham, a mission-support coordinator based in Kenya, East Africa, who will talk about her ministry and the many opportunities for others to serve worldwide.

The convocation banquet will feature as speaker the Rev. Dr. Tilahun Mendedo, president of Concordia College Alabama, Selma, the country’s only historically black Lutheran college.

Gray, the convocation’s keynote speaker, said he will explore the future of LCMS black ministry by “casting a vision for the future” during his presentation: “Where do we go from here? And how do we need to support each other in getting there?”

During business sessions, pastoral and lay delegates will vote on a number of resolutions, including those to increase the number of Lutherans in black and African-immigrant ministries, celebrate the 140th anniversary of black ministry in 2017 and establish a recruitment center for professional church workers at Concordia College Alabama.

The convocation will offer two youth programs — for teens and younger children — that will include outings to local museums and the Schlitterbahn Waterpark as well as a “game night” with pizza.

Many youth activities will relate to the event’s “Worship, Word, Witness” theme, according to planner Rev. Gregory Manning.

While the younger children are writing letters to LCMS active-duty soldiers as part of the “Witness” aspect, for example, the teenagers will be doing yard cleanup and food-pantry “servant events.” Under “Worship,” the youth participants will hear from a Gospel hip-hop artist, who will teach them a dance. To illustrate “Word,” they will write several resolutions and present them to the convocation.

Says Manning: “I want them to have a voice and for the older people to hear their voice in some way.”

The youth participants also will take part in daily devotions and hear how to witness their faith to others.

“This is a learning-opportunity convocation,” says Gray. “If you want to know how to do outreach ministry — socially, culturally, spiritually — this is where you can learn how to do that.”

So, although there will be black choirs and African-American-style worship services at the convocation — opportunities for non-blacks “to see how worship is done in a cultural context,” notes Gray — the event also will offer learning opportunities designed to benefit all LCMS Lutherans.

Gray urges all LCMS congregation members to consider attending the convocation. “It’s a good time for the Synod to gather together with one of its specialized ministries — black ministry — and encourage each other in the work ahead.”

Adult registration is $160 and includes a banquet and ice-cream social. Registration for children ages 5 to 11 is $60 and for teens ages 12 to 17 is $75.

To learn more about the convocation or to register, visit lcms.org/events/blackministryconvocation.

Posted May 30, 2014

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