February 26 – Trailblazer Celebration
12:30 pm – 2 pm : Re-Imagining Ministry Workshops for the Union Community
12:30 pm – 1:10 pm
Review, Repair, Refresh : Rev. James Forbes: Room AD116
A conversation facilitated by Senior Minister Emeritus of The Riverside Church, Healing of the Nations Foundation, and Harry Emerson Fosdick Adjunct Professor of Preaching, Rev. Dr. James Alexander Forbes will reflect on the place of imagination, perspiration and inspiration in the preaching process.
Degrees of Divinity: Emerald Carter: Room 303
Degrees of Divinity are 50-minute workshops providing black feminist tools for building intimacy and integration between the mind, body, and spirit. These tools include breath meditation, listening sequences, and creative synthesis exercises. Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (1975), inspires this workshop. Shange’s radical subjectivity reminds us that the experiences of women of color are not only valid, but the repositories of strength and healing which must be consecrated and archived. By first acknowledging our divinity and then engaging her, participants learn to realign thought with action and give voice to their simplest, yet most profound truths. This workshop caters to black women of color, as it is led by one, however, all identities are welcome.
1:20 pm – 2 pm
Holy Play: Re-imagining Ministry: Rev. Desiree Allen; Room 305
Often, while entrenched in the educational rigor of seminary life one can only imagine very limiting ways in which to engage this work after graduation. That is, to either enter into Parish ministry or to continue on to PhD work and academia. Yet, there are a myriad of unconventional alternatives for how to intersect life at Union with the real world. Some never even consider creating their own trajectory not yet forged blazing the trail for those to follow. I was very blessed to have the opportunity to do field education in a space that allowed me to not only embody my full possibility, but to also make mistakes and try new things. After matriculating into a full time position at First Corinthian Baptist Church I created my own job description that allowed me to find intersections between art and spiritually. Additionally, I am now the Executive Director of The Dream Center. There was no way for me to “see” how my seminary life could prepare me for this space. Yet it has. If given the opportunity to facilitate a workshop I would love to help students with their discernment in finding others avenues for the passions and possibilities that lie dormant within.
Pastoral Leadership 101: Rev. Seth Pickens: Room 307
Every day, pastors educate, encourage, and enlighten millions of people across every conceivable stage of life. Despite pastors’ long hours and high levels of commitment, churches have experienced marked decreases in attendance and giving over the past 40 years. Evidence suggests that many churches are struggling because pastors have not been equipped to lead effectively in the face of a rapidly-changing culture.
This presentation will illuminate the professional problems pastors face, then articulate the essential skills of effective pastoral leadership. Participants will examine their own call, and gain a greater understanding of the challenges of leadership in general and of pastoring in particular. It is appropriate for all current and aspiring pastors and leaders.
This data comes from my 6 years as a senior pastor, as well as a study I recently conducted for a doctoral dissertation. The findings are in easy-to understand figures and tables at the end of the dissertation, which is attached. I’d be putting some of those figures into a PowerPoint and handouts if you want me to give the presentation.
Very little empirical research has been done in the area of pastoral leadership, and nearly none concerning the black church. If we expect the church to have a meaningful impact in society, current and future pastors must have more thorough, systematic leadership training. Nowhere is this more true than in the black church–our oldest and most significant institution. If we don’t do all we can to strengthen her, who will?
5:30 pm – 6:45 pm Trailblazer Reception – Social Hall
Dr. Brad R. Braxton is Program Officer for Religion in the Public Sphere at the Ford Foundation in New York, New York. He also is the Founding Senior Pastor of The Open Church, a radically inclusive congregation in Baltimore, Maryland committed to social justice activism and interfaith collaboration.
Dr. Braxton is an ordained Baptist minister and a respected voice among today’s progressive religious leaders. His speaking engagements have included appearances at institutions such as Yale University, Princeton University, and Morehouse College. In 2007, he preached at Westminster Abbey in London, England, joining a select group of American ministers who have preached in that historic pulpit. He also has published three scholarly books and dozens of essays and online publications.
He holds a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Emory University, where he was a George W. Woodruff Fellow, a Master’s degree in theology from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a B.A. degree in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he was a Jefferson Scholar.
His wife, Lazetta, is a Certified Financial Planner and CEO of her own financial planning firm, Financial Fountains. They are the proud parents of a daughter, Karis, an energetic, inquisitive elementary school student who loves to dance and draw.
The Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble, Inc. was founded by Bettye Franks Forbes in 1979 for participation in the re-opening celebration of the renovated James Memorial Chapel at Union Theological Seminary of New York City, marking the beginning of a long and storied history and relationship between Union Theological Seminary and The Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble. This first gathering consisted of seminarians and faculty members and spouses. The Ensemble’s first anniversary concerts were sponsored by The Black Caucus and the Black Women’s Caucus, and over the past 35 years, Union students and faculty have continued to be a part of the EEE family, from singers and faculty supporters to instrumentalists to members who have graduated from Union and gone on to lead congregations around the Tri-State area and the nation, inviting the Ensemble to come and minister with its music. Ebony has also expanded its ministry to include spoken word and sacred dance. Today, Ebony is celebrating 36 years of music ministry and continues to captivate audiences throughout the Tri-State area, as well as other parts of the country. Over the years, Ebony has become an intergenerational ensemble with family members passing their love of music and the message of the African American Religious Experience from generation to generation.
The Ensemble recorded its first album, “Release Your Song” in 1984. Over the years, Ebony has performed with Platinum and Grammy award winners Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville, world renowned opera star Kathleen Battle, jazz vibraphonist and recording artist Jay Hoggard on his 1990 recording “Love Survives” and jazz trombonist Wycliff Gordon. In 2006, Award Winning Jazz Pianist Cyrus Chestnut asked the Ensemble to join him in concert at the historic Paramount Center in Peeksville, NY. Ebony has performed for former South African President Nelson Mandela on his trip to the United States in 1990 and 2005 at The Riverside Church and for Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s visit during the struggle for South African freedom. The Ensemble has also performed at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall, at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall for the celebrations its 20th and 21st anniversaries, and at The Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center for its 30th Anniversary Concert. The Ensemble made its choral debut appearance with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Lorin Maazel performing excerpts from Porgy and Bess in the Emmy-nominated Live from Lincoln Center in 2004. The Ensemble earned international acclaim during a 2000 winter tour in South Korea for The Christian Broadcasting System and in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1986 and 1988 as part of The Kizomba International Black Arts Festivals. At the invitation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Ensemble presented its own unique musical flavor with a Holiday Concert.
Yet one of the most important parts of The Ensemble’s ministry is its ongoing work with local and national churches and organizations such as New York City Opera Star Lauren Flanigan’s yearly Comfort Ye Christmas Concert that collects food and coats for the homeless in New York City and other local churches and organizations that seek to reach out and serve the people. The Ensemble cherishes its role in making the world a better place through music, word, and dance.