Following in the steps of Habakkuk through valleys to high places, the theme of the 22nd Biennial Session was “…Yet I will Rejoice”. From the opening by President Rev. Dale Braxton to the address by Rev. Dr. Timothy James, associate general minister and administrative secretary of the National Convocation, to the closing worship, the theme of rejoicing was heard time and again through Bible study, workshops, preaching and worship and also heard in the greetings and laughter as participants renewed friendships and made new connections.
The session was undergirded by the organizational tasks taken on by Braxton, Rev. Marilyn Fiddmont (local arrangements) and Vice President Patricia B. Maples (program), National Convocation staff and officers as well as an army of local volunteers who helped with registration, directions and countless other tasks.
Though the Convocation mourned the loss of the late Rev. Dr. Billye Pinkston Bridges’ leadership in the pre-convocation Learning Institute of African American Faith and Life, the Thursday sessions were broad and deep, covering everything from using media and movies, transformation, moving beyond church conflict and support for caregivers to unapologetic worship, leading Bible studies and leading worship. Organizers included Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton, Lonnie Graves, Rev. Dr. Irvin Green and Rev. Betty Green.
Young adults and youth were invited to join in through activities like step teams, Bible studies and discussions, choir and off-site trips. The youngest helped out locally by packing backpacks, went on field trips and studied Daniel as a model of rejoicing.
Guest speakers and guests included “Dr. Jazz” (Rev. Dr. Jasmin Sculark), Dr. Hilary O. Shelton (NAACP Washington bureau director for advocacy), Rep. Al Green ( 9th Congressional District – Houston) and violinist Richmond Punch.
Another highlight was a celebration luncheon for the 100th Anniversary of Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas.
And the joy continued with honors for individuals and recognition of groups at the Saturday evening awards banquet. Different generations were invited to wear different colors. After dinner, each group was asked to show their joy in dance to music from their youth … Natalie Cole, the Temptations, Michael Jackson and others. As might be expected, there was laughter as well!
Generational awards: Builders (born 1900-1946) - James O. Griffin; Boomers (1947-1964) – Arnold G. Hayes; Busters (1965-1983) – Rochelle Harden; Bridgers (1984-1993) – Tiffany Murphy; and Inspirational (1994 to present) – Taylor Facen.
Leadership awards: Rosa Page Welch Ambassador Award – Giley Nixon-Griffin; Emerging Minister Award – Dr. Preston Adams III; Justice – Rev. Dr. Eric Brown; Emmett J. Dickson – Rev. Dr. Bill Lee; Preston Taylor Living Legacy – Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale.
Liberation Awards (opening doors of service and empowerment for African Americans and other oppressed people): Rev. Julia Brown Karimu, president of the Division of Overseas Ministries; Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president; Rev. J. O. Williams, a pioneer in preserving the history of the National Convocation; and Rev. John Mobley, regional minister for Alabama/Northern Florida.
Additional awards: Distinguished Service to Dr. Norman Reed for 15 years leading the Greenwood Cemetery and preserving the Preston Taylor legacy; Outstanding Service to Ms. Doris Speaks, administrative assistant for the National Convocation office, for 22 years of service with “pleasant disposition and hospitality.”
The business session of the session included amendments to the bylaws to allow for a standing committee for African American history; the reduction of the size of the board by two members and the election of new officers for the next biennium: president – Patricia B. Maples; vice president – Rev. Jesse Jackson; secretary – Karen Barrett; and treasurer – Rev. Dr. Matthew Harris. These new officers were installed with prayer during the closing worship. Additional business included reports from the National Convocation office, Office of General Minister and President, audit reports, acceptance of minutes, updates from merger staff, report of a historical overview from Dr. Lawrence Burnley, and the announcement of the location of the next biennial session in Columbus, Ohio, in July 2014.
To see a selection of photos, access the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) FaceBook page.