The overcast, cloudy, and scattered rainy conditions could not dampen the spirits within Bethany Presbyterian Church at the annual Committee for African American Ministry (CAAM) on Saturday, August 9th. With the theme of “Transforming the Church: From the Inside Out”, the day was filled with inspiring messages from a variety of speakers, dancers, and singers. There were so many people who contributed to the success of this gathering that I could not possibly name them all, but a special “Thank You” is extended to Bethany and Mount Pelier Presbyterian Churches for co-hosting this wonderful event.
(Please See the Photo Gallery at the bottom of this article)
Warm Welcome at the Annual Gathering of African American Churches
Elder Bob James, Chair of CAAM, was certainly correct in his opening remarks when he noted that, “…this is indeed a spirit-filled event”, and indeed it was. After Rev. Clarence Page, pastor of Bethany and Panthersford Presbyterian Churches, gave a heartfelt welcome, the entire congregation of 200 joined in worship with the singing of “Victory Is Mine”.
Following the joyful singing, Rev. Earnest Parish, Jr., pastor of Dothan and Wilson Chapel Presbyterian Churches and Secretary of CAAM, shared the reading of Romans 12:1-12 and Rev. Johnie Bennett, moderator of Silver Hill Presbyterian Church, lead the morning prayer.
All of our hearts were warmed by the powerful, spirit-filled, liturgical dance of the Mount Pelier Praise Dancers. These gifted young ladies are truly using their talents to praise God. See their Liturgical Dance on YouTube
Keynote by Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson
Elder Naomi Newton of Silver Hill Presbyterian Church had the honor of introducing our guest speaker, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness (OPW) in Washington, DC. Dr. Nelson travels extensively nationally and internationally on behalf of the PC (U.S.A.) “speaking truth to power with love”, but on Saturday, August 9th, he reaffirmed that, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina”, and we were truly blessed to have him with us.
Dr. Nelson reminded us using Paul’s words to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing our your minds…” (Rom. 12:2) He asserted that we must be “…grounded in education…”. He spoke of the many issues of the day, including immigration control, gun control, voter apathy, and many more. Drawing our attention to Romans 12:11, “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.”, Dr. Nelson implored us to, “Get engaged and declare that faith has something to say!” It is safe to say that every heart was touched by Dr. Nelson’s passionate message and strong words of encouragement. See his remarks here
Workshops and Celebrations
After the opening plenary, we all separated into our workshops based on our age; Pre-K-Grade 3, Grades 4-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, young adults, and adults.
Following our workshops we all joined together for a wonderful meal. The adults enjoyed a cool, fresh chicken salad on a bed of crisp lettuce accompanied by garden fresh tomatoes and fruit. The youth enjoyed their favorite pizza as laughter and conversations filled the room.
With appetites satisfied we reconvened to celebrate the gifts of our youth as they presented the fruits of their workshops including skits, songs, and words of youthful wisdom.
Our churches are so blessed to have so many inspiring young people wanting to participate and be a part of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Rochelle Snowden, a young adult from College Heights Presbyterian Church shared her enthusiasm and excitement as she proclaimed that she rearranges her schedule each year just to be able to attend this annual African American Church gathering.
This spirit-filled day concluded with the gift of music from the sons of CAAM Vice-Chair, Joyce Peay. Majid, Taimine, Katif, and Solomon shared their talents as they sang two selections that had all of us clapping and singing along.
Dr. Nelson sent us on our way with a charge to “Go and make disciples…”. He said, “Don’t text, don’t tweet, YOU GO! GO!” With these strong words he sent us out into the world to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Video of J Herbert Nelson’s Keynote
If you wish to hear Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson’s Keynote address if can be found on YouTube Here
Pictures from the African American Church Gathering 2014 at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Lumberton, NC