I became a Born Again Christian and was called to preach the Gospel while a student at King William High School. My calling was incubated and answered at Virginia State University. I followed the tradition of African-American Baptist and prepared for ministry at Virginia Union University. Each school has played an important role in my learning how to practice my faith in society. I thank God for putting me in those places. But there is one school which host the event that inspires and challenges me as a person and pastor; The Hampton University Minister’s Conference.
A mentor taught me that we preachers are working on Sunday Mornings. We don’t get a chance to fully and freely worship when we are in the pulpit. Hampton is the place for preachers to worship. I have been blessed to hear some of the greatest orators of the Gospel from the long time role models to the emerging standard bearers. Being able to come into the Lord’s presence with thousands of my brothers and sisters with no other duty but to worship is a breath of fresh air. We breathe so much out of ourselves Sunday after Sunday and with our weekly task of church, home, and (for the bi-vocational) secular labor. Here for one week, the Holy Spirit breathes back into us.
The Minister’s Conference at Hampton Institute was organized almost 100 years ago to help equip and educate negro ministers who lacked time and money to attend a seminary. My finances and the cost of completing a Master of Divinity from an accredited school of religion these days can’t seem to meet eye to eye. So, the lectures at the conference have been a godsend to me. Some of the most thought-provoking scholars in the world have taken stage at Hampton to open our minds to a variety of topics and ideas. Here, seminary professors sit on the same level as those who have just been licensed to preach. Thus, we find ourselves encouraging each other.
The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity declares that “Friendship is essential to the soul.” This motto is true in the lives of ministers. Our hearts are gladdened when we are reunited with former classmates, professors, mentors, and others we have met along life’s journey. New friends are made as well. When we are wise, we allow a few of these bonds to go beyond invitations to one another’s pulpits. But, we also share some of our joys and pains with one another. With the blessing of modern technology, it is easier for us to maintain those contacts that have grown to more meaningful unions.
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he left a charge to his disciples to go out into the world. That same charge extends to us in the final service of the week if not earlier. I and others have found the Holy Spirit giving us new challenges and visions in our personal lives and in ministry. We don’t expect things to be perfect when we go back to our various homes. But, we have a greater expectation of what is possible through the will of God. We go forward with that expectation knowing with inspired hearts, enlightened minds, and nourished souls that through him, all things are possible.
Along with the move of God I felt at Douthat State Park ( see “Zeitgiested at Douthat”) I will begin a new ministry revolving around Christians who love the outdoors. The inaugural event will take place this September. I am not certain if this will be an official outreach program of my church or if this is to be something separate. But, I will pray and work to see what this will become.