National Black Presbyterian Caucus gathers in Detroit for 43rd biennial convention

New leadership is elected

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – Members of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus (NBPC) gathered in Detroit on July 13–15 for the 43rd biennial convention. The event offered something for everyone but made sure to offer topics of interest to youth and young adults. The convention provided an opportunity for NBPC members to meet with the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and Co-Moderator T. Denise Anderson.

Akilah Hyrams (center) is pictured with David Wallace, immediate past president of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus and the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Hyrams received the Maria Fearing Award at the 43rd NBPC Biennial Convention in Detroit. Photo by Blake Collins.

NBPC members also elected the Rev. Thomas Priest Jr. president of the caucus. Sterling Morse, coordinator for African American Intercultural Congregational Support, said, “As his former pastor, I have witnessed Thomas’ spiritual growth and passion for ministry. His engineering background, the ability to think clearly and make decisions, will be a critical asset in leading NBPC toward the future.”

The Rev. Eric Chavis was elected treasurer of the organization.

The group also presented awards to several outstanding Presbyterians. The Lucy Craft Laney Award, named after an educator who organized a school for African Americans in the basement of Georgia’s Christ Presbyterian Church in 1883, honors “individuals who refuse to be defined by the limiting constraints imposed by others.” National Black Presbyterian Women (NBPW), a partner organization of the NBPC, awards the Lucy Craft Laney Award.

This award went to Drs. Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden. Johnson was a NASA mathematician and aerospace technologist from 1953–1986. Her computations have influenced every major space program from the Mercury launches through the Space Shuttle program.

Darden was also a mathematician, data analyst and aeronautical engineer. During her 40 years at NASA, she researched sonic booms and supersonic flight. The movie Hidden Figures tells the story of Johnson’s and Darden’s careers at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Both women are active Presbyterians.

Akilah Hyrams and Elder Virginia Barnes received the Maria Fearing Award, which recognizes individuals who have overcome insurmountable odds and challenges to achieve their goals. Hyrams, who most recently served 10 months in the Philippines as a Young Adult Volunteer for the PC(USA), is currently training to be a primary care physician with a focus on underserved communities.

Other award recipients included the Rev. Dr. James Foster Reese, an ordained Presbyterian minister for 65 years, who received the Drum Major for Justice Award, which recognizes individuals for their display of commitment to the biblical principles of justice; the Rev. Bernice Warren of Chester, Pennsylvania, longtime leader of Chester Eastside Ministries, who received the Innovation in Ministry Award, which honors innovators in ministry who lead by example with a caring heart, imagination and persistence; and the Rev. Dr. Arlene Gordon, retired executive presbyter for the Tropical Florida Presbytery, who received the Edler G. Hawkins Award, which was named for the first black person elected as moderator of the United Presbyterian Church.

The group also left their mark on Detroit by participating in a mission/service project. Caucus members, along with others in their congregations and service organizations, provided items such as soap, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes to Fort Street Presbyterian Church’s Open Door Ministry. The ministry serves nearly 200 people per week, and director John Glover said the hygiene items from the NBPC were very much appreciated. “We couldn’t do what we do without these donations,” he said.


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