The Rev. Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam, director of the PC(USA)’s Center for the Repair of Historic Harms, discusses how to wake up to what God gave us

‘The Holy Spirit reminds us that something needs our attention’ Ross-Allam says during the most recent ‘Leading Theologically’ broadcast

by Shani E. McIlwain | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev.  Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam (photo by Rich Copley)

In a Wednesday conversation with the Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty, Senior Director for Theological Education Funds Development with the Presbyterian Foundation, the Rev. Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam shared his wisdom and thoughtfulness over the work he is doing on behalf of the Presbyterian Mission Agency as the director for the Center for the Repair of Historical Harms. The title of their half-hour “Leading Theologically” talk was “Waking up to What God Gave You.” It can be viewed here or here.

From the moment one begins listening to Ross-Allam, one has a feeling of hopefulness, a gift that is necessary for those tasked with talking about justice and walking a restorative path. Ross-Allam told Hinson-Hasty he believes that the work of justice is about entering into the right relationships to provide more opportunities for people to discover what is beautiful about themselves. He believes that despite centuries and layers of denial, the things that we pretend can’t be solved can be if we lean into the truth. Ross-Allam credits the leadership and mentorship of the co-pastors of Liberty Community Church in North Minneapolis, the Rev. Dr. Alika Galloway and the Rev. Dr. Ralph Galloway. The church they serve was formerly known as Kwanzaa Community Church.

One of the many lessons Ross-Allam shared is that “when God taps you on the shoulder and puts something on your heart, don’t be content to explain it away or to spiritualize it as just one more piece of data that you know about the past, that you need to represent some kind of guilt or shame over or that you have to acknowledge.”

That insight came amid research he was doing on Queen Mother Audley Moore, the African American civil and human rights leader. Moore complained to the woman interviewing her, Dr. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes,  that African American men “with decent educations weren’t using their intelligence to help the community get reparations,” Ross-Allam said. “I wasn’t trying to have an intimate moment with the ancestors or the Creator, but it was in that moment I could hear simultaneously that she might as well have been speaking to me. There was an opportunity in that moment for me to do some of the work that was not finished when Queen Audley Moore passed away [in 1997].”

The Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty

It is that constant nudging of the Holy Spirit that requires all of us to be proactive in the work of justice. When asked by Hinson-Hasty a question that the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon used to ask, “What is the work your soul must have?” Ross-Allam answered, “The work that my soul must have is work that is true, work that is beautiful, work that is possible, and work that is creative. Those seem to be the coordinates lately that allow me to realize that this is work for me when it’s possible, when it’s true, and when it’s beautiful, and when it requires creativity.”

As for possible next steps people can take, Ross-Allam said, “If there’s guilt and there’s shame, then deal with it. And if there’s acknowledgments to be made, then make the acknowledgments. But don’t make the presumption that God is not trying to inspire you to make something a part of the work that you do with other people within the context of the assumption that it can get done.”

If you are ready to engage in repair and reparations work, if you are ready to have a conversation, Ross-Allam is ready to have a conversation with you to bring the beauty of hopefulness to all Creation. “My favorite thing,” he told Hinson-Hasty, “is to get an email or a phone call from a congregation eager to engage in this work.”

Rooted and grounded in the power and love of the Holy Spirit, Ross-Allam spoke with a servant leader’s heart and a posture that allows all of us to be willing participants in this work. His sending prayer proved to be yet another invitation of hopefulness: “Gracious God, we thank you so much for creating us with the capacity to receive from you all of the love and the grace and the creativity that is flowing out from you, and in your infinite goodness and in your infinite love, and in your infinite wisdom. We pray that we will have the creativity and the courage and the compassion and the energy to make this world a place that shows the evidence of your reality everywhere that we go, in our lifetimes and beyond. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.”

The Rev. Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam will be leading a workshop on reparations at the Matthew 25 Summit in Atlanta Jan. 16-18, 2024. Learn more and register here.

Watch upcoming and past editions of “Leading Theologically” here.

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