Black Clergy Caucus shares resources for ‘more vibrant’ ministry

The Rev. Dr. McNair Ramsey, LCMS Southern District second vice-president, preaches during worship at the LCMS Black Clergy Caucus, which met Jan. 18–20 at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Dallas. (LCMS/Megan K. Mertz)

By Megan K. Mertz

DALLAS — At its Jan. 18-20 meeting here, the LCMS Black Clergy Caucus (BCC) turned its attention to how to be “Stronger Together” — the theme of the gathering — to reach out to people in the 21st century.

The Rev. Byron Williams Sr., caucus president and pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Dallas, told Reporter that the BCC’s goal is to help churches “be more vibrant and more relevant, to make an impact on the community, to strategize and come together to see what’s working.”

One of the ways to do this, he said, is to share resources and information.

In prisons and jails

During the caucus, the Rev. E. James Rivett, LCMS Southern Illinois District senior prison ministry coordinator, addressed the group about the importance of prison and jail ministry.

Nearly every head nodded in assent when Rivett asked, “Everybody got somebody who was in prison?”

Rivett talked about his many years serving in prison ministry; introduced the “Jump Start Prison and Jail Ministry” grant program, which gives grants of up to $1,000 for the materials needed to start a local ministry; and answered attendees’ questions.

“In terms of Lutheran ministry, we work with, train and offer materials for folks to learn how to go in and do prison ministry,” he said. “Our focus continues to be assisting folks to experience the Gospel and the grace of Jesus Christ.”

In schools

The Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray Jr., director of Black Ministry with the Synod’s Office of National Mission, also gave an update on the Rosa J. Young academies, an initiative that was approved at the 2016 Synod convention to start charter schools around the country.

The Rev. Dwight Dickinson Sr., left, pastor of Great Commission Lutheran Church in St. Louis, talks with the Rev. Dr. Yohannes Mengsteab, mission and ministry facilitator Area B for the LCMS Texas District, during the recent Black Clergy Caucus. (LCMS /Megan K. Mertz)

Gray said that still in the process of being established is the Rosa J. Young Academies Foundation Inc. — named for Dr. Rosa J. Young, a woman influential in the founding of Alabama Lutheran Academy and College of Selma, Ala., which is now Concordia College Alabama. He said he hopes that the first school will be open by 2018.

“It will be a school where we can engage communities and families with the Gospel through wraparound programs,” Gray said. “But we have to be energetic and active in serving those communities.”

The caucus also heard a brief presentation from the Rev. Gregory Manning, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, New Orleans, about Rebecca’s Garden of Hope, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization that provides a template to help churches start a tutoring and mentoring program.

“We’re often wondering, ‘Where are the resources we have as a church?’” Manning said. “This is one. It’s very simple; it doesn’t take much to invite children in.”

Manning said that 20 children and seven adults have been baptized at Gloria Dei after becoming acquainted with the church through their tutoring program.

Caucus business

At its January 2015 meeting, the Black Clergy Caucus asked its executive committee to pursue 501c3 nonprofit status for the organization.

This status, which was granted in July, enables the caucus to seek grants that are in “accordance with [its] mission and vision,” according to the Rev. Warren Lattimore, caucus secretary and pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Orleans.

Lattimore said the caucus’ 501c3 documents allow the organization to seek grants in the following areas: evangelism; ministerial support; education; economic development, including “helping raise up our congregations to be more economically savvy”; political involvement and awareness, including “‘get out the vote’ drives and voter registration”; youth development; fellowship; sharing of knowledge, gifts and talents; and recruitment.

After some discussion, the caucus voted to allow the executive committee to work with a grant writer to seek funding in these areas.

“At the end of the day, we did what we set out to do, which was to get this 501c3 [status] pushed to another level,” caucus President Williams told Reporter. “We want to tap into some funding so that we can continue to strengthen leaders and congregations.”

In other business, the caucus voted to designate the Jan. 19 worship offering of $373.75 — as well as an additional $500 from its own budget — to Concordia College Alabama, Selma, Ala.

Black Ministry Family Convocation

Gray reminded attendees about the upcoming 2017 Black Ministry Family Convocation, which will be held July 12-16 in Birmingham, Ala. The theme for the convocation, which will celebrate the 140th anniversary of black ministry in the Synod, is “All for Jesus.”

“We’re bringing all of the Synod’s resources to the table for the convocation,” Gray said. “So whatever we are doing in Synod, there’s going to be a workshop for that.”

Megan K. Mertz (megan.mertz@lcms.org) is a staff writer and managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World with LCMS Communications.

Posted January 26, 2017

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