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Conference for Seminarians of Color helps participants connect with resources

One participant: Self-care is essential with seminary ordination exams looming

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

Ekama Eni, a participant in the 2019 Conference for Seminarians of Color, was recently elected to serve as the representative of the young women’s ministry on the board of Presbyterian Women Inc. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — The Conference for Seminarians of Color was the first Presbyterian Young Women’s Leadership Development event Ekama Eni ever attended. Turns out the conference held each year at the Children Defense Fund’s Alex Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee was just the experience she’d been looking for.

“I went to the conference with no expectations,” Eni said. “I had never heard of the Haley Farm. I had no idea of what was going to happen. So when I received the invitation, I decided to go. I knew this wasn’t going to be like a ‘churchy’ thing or presbytery meeting. People of color events have a different vibe and, it’s rare to attend Presbyterian events with people of color only.”

Eni says one of the most exciting experiences of the conference was creating a worship service at the end of the event. “Creating a worship service is daunting. Creating a worship service with strangers is even more daunting. But it was a magical experience,” she said

Eni, a third-year student at Union Theological Seminary, says the training she received at the Seminarians of Color Conference helped her with key priorities. “The conference helped me to put forth ordination exams closer to the front of my agenda and the workshop on self-care was a reminder to take care of myself especially while in seminary,” she said. Eni will take her first ordination examination in September.

“Now I know what resources are available to me through the church and where resources are,” she said. “While the Presbyterian Church is a large denomination, it’s small enough to reach people like Tim Cargal, who can help you.”

Cargal, the manager for Preparation for Ministry for the Office of the General Assembly, said, “In the decade that I have been privileged to work with the Seminarians of Color Conference. “I have found that one of its greatest benefits is that it provides opportunities not only to present workshops on navigating the PC(USA) preparation for ministry process but also for one-on-one conversations between the seminarians and conference leadership.”

“Those conversations enable us to individualize our support while at the same time learning about their gifts and callings for ministry. A special joy has been linking seminarians into opportunities for service at the national level of the church, creating spaces where ministries of the church are expanded by their gifts even as they continue to develop those gifts,” Cargal said. “I know from my broader work across the church that the Seminarians of Color Conference facilitates that exchange in ways that cannot be achieved through other means.”

Eni, who is a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Denton, Texas, just completed an internship for field service at First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn in New York. She says that experience was “1000% beneficial.”

“I was involved in a little bit of everything,” she said. “I taught confirmation classes for the year as well as Sunday school to children and high school students.”

When asked if she had a desire to work professionally in the denomination, Eni says she is exploring her options after seminary. “I’m not opposed to working for the denomination in a parish or non-parish ministry,” she said. With a real passion for work in peace and conflict resolution, Eni says may pursue a career with a nonprofit organization.

“Given today’s culture, I really want to work to create better communities and for a change, because whatever we’re doing now isn’t working,” she said.

Born in the United Kingdom to Nigerian parents, Eni said, “My family’s story in America starts years ago. So much of my experience has been that we didn’t land in the America we thought we going to and then the follow-up has been the constant work of learning why exactly that is.”

Eni says the PC(USA) has to work to become more diverse by making a stronger effort to know our communities and our history. “A lot of learning and a lot of listening needs to happen to change this country,” she said. “There’s so much you don’t know about America.”

Eni is the only Black Presbyterian woman at her seminary. For her, attending the conference helped her make connections with other seminarians of color and to form long-term relationships, even though they may not be constant.

Eni was recently elected to serve as the representative of the young women’s ministry on the board of Presbyterian Women Inc. She will attend her first board meeting in September.

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