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Gifts to #Give 8/28 help pastor attend Black Theology and Leadership Institute

Among the lecturers was US Senator Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth E. Coleman

LOUISVILLE — Last month the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth E. Coleman, pastor of the Northwest Presbyterian Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, attended the annual Black Theology and Leadership Institute (BTLI) hosted by Princeton Theological Seminary. Coleman’s attendance was possible thanks to a woman’s leadership development grant from the Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries, part of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries (RE&WIM). Funds for the grant were raised through #Give8/28 during the 2020 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Week of Action.

#Give 8/28 again is a part of the Presbyterian Week of Action, which began Monday and runs through Sunday.

Coleman was one of 13 women who received the grant to attend BTLI, held July 11-16. Jewel McRae, coordinator for Women’s Leadership Development & Young Women’s Ministries at the Presbyterian Mission Agency said, “I am so grateful that at a time when many women of color who have suffered the brunt of this nation’s health disparities, inequities in employment and even loss of jobs, homes, and other social injustices revealed by this pandemic that RE&WIM was able to award this grant to deserving women in 2021.”

“I am truly grateful for the support the church has shown for #Give 8/28,” McRae said, “and I want to encourage everyone to make a gift this year so that we can continue these efforts in the PC(USA).”

The annual BTLI is a weeklong intensive continuing education event for clergy and laity that includes training, worship and fellowship. BTLI is designed to help participants deepen their thinking and preaching by learning from prominent religion scholars and theologians.

The 2021 theme (postponed from 2020) is “The Art of Worship: Proclamation, Practice and Protest.”

U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock

Coleman noted that this institute included lectures, worship, Bible study and cohort group discussions, with an added bonus of a question-and-answer session with the the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, elected last year to the U.S. Senate to represent Georgia.

“It was a rich experience in which pastors from across the globe connected to collectively explore the intersection of proclamation, practice and protest,” said Coleman.

“The responsibility of Black pastors to lead justice-minded worship was front and center, and the pandemic heightened the necessity for ministry that is sensitive to what people in the congregation are experiencing,” Coleman said. “Since I serve a nearly all-white congregation, I could translate this responsibility to my particular situation in which I am attempting to raise awareness about racial equity issues.”

Coleman says the institute included also exploring the complexity of today’s music and how it reflects what people are experiencing, including a lot of pain resulting from significant loss and displacement caused by the pandemic. “We learned how secular music can also inform the church about the needs of the community, so that a bridge can be created between what people are experiencing in the community and what is being addressed in the pulpit,” she said.

“This institute was helpful to me by challenging me to acknowledge the pain that is being experienced in the community while addressing it in worship,” Coleman said.

“Rev. Dr. Senator Warnock brought to the table current trends and legislation that we should be aware of and challenged us to become more involved with the processes that determine how our communities’ basic functions are funded and run. The legacy of protest was evident in his church’s history.”

Coleman recently wrote and illustrated her first book, “Even the Weeping Willow.”

Gifts to #Give 8/28 can be made here.

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