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Posted on Sat, Oct 10, 2015


Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Chair, Commission on Publications
The Reverend Dr. Johnny Barbour, Jr., Publisher
The Reverend Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III, the 20th Editor, The Christian Recorder

-- Change clocks (fall back) to Standard Time on Sunday, November 1, 2015, 2:00 a.m.
-- Advent begins Sunday, November 29, 2015, and ends Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III
The 20th Editor of The Christian Recorder
As I mentioned in last week’s article, I use the term, “Sidewalk Theological Seminary” from a comment I received from one of our bishops.
The term, “Sidewalk Theological Seminary” comes from the gathering of pastors on the sidewalk in front of a church or other facility where a major church conference is taking place. During the breaks between sessions, many major discussions take place "on the sidewalk." Younger pastors listening to older pastors talk in this informal setting learn important tidbits about pastoring that they have never heard during their years of formal training.  Real life experiences mean a lot and the sharp younger pastors take the lessons from "Sidewalk Theological Seminary" back to their local churches and are able to apply them to their own situations. If they use the lessons from "Sidewalk Theological Seminary" they become more effective pastors.
The preachers are not the only ones who benefit from "Sidewalk Theological Seminary" and some of the “professors” are lay, not always clergy.  There are a lot of lay persons who have experience that can benefit pastors and local church leaders.
We are not finished with the education provided to preachers who matriculate at "Sidewalk Theological Seminary," because we want to share some observations of church leadership from a lay perspective.  Sometimes the lay perspectives of church leadership are given in “one-on-one” lessons; sometimes when talking with older preachers and sometimes with young ministers. Lay folks talk on the sidewalk too!
Observations by lay “professors” of “Sidewalk Theological Seminary”
A preacher’s begging for money from the pulpit doesn’t add to worship and it doesn’t increase the offerings. Most people know what they are going to give before they get to church. If a pastor takes too much time to beg for money some people act passive-aggressively and give less.
Fussing and complaining, especially from the pulpit, is not a strategy for motivating church members to do more; in fact people tend to function at the level of what’s expected of them. If a pastor complains about what people are not doing, the people will continue to “not do.”
Pastors are more likely to have success if they would hold a conversation with the pro-tem prior to meetings and come to an agreement on what the agenda should be and the expected outcomes. Negotiate before the meeting. It takes time to have a meeting before the meeting, but it will save time during the meeting. A meeting before the meeting allows the pastor and leaders to iron out problems before the meeting. The meeting before the meeting may not eliminate conflict, but it certainly lessens conflict.
Effective pastors empower laypeople. Let them feel that they are an integral part of the religious program.  The pastor who constantly insists that he or she is in charge of the religious program might, in reality, be “sowing seeds” of disempowering the laity. 
The pastor who has to remind the congregation that he or she is the pastor, in reality, is not the pastor. The “real pastor” is probably sitting in the pew, in the choir loft or might be sitting in one of the other seats in the pulpit.
Some pastors need to learn to “lead the flock” instead of “driving the church” like a heard of cattle. Some pastors “drive the flock” because they have a need to succeed and move to the next level and are using their position and parishioners to get to the next level.
Some pastors project the appearance and talk a wonderful “game” about leadership; but in reality, their leadership style is, “my way or the highway.” They do not listen, heed or take advice. They want everything to go their way!
And just as bad, is the pastor who simply will not lead the flock.  He or she is content to follow the flock. Whichever direction the flock wants to go is the way the non-leader pastor goes.  The non-leader pastor doesn’t want to “rock the boat,” risk conflict and resists change. The non-leading pastor either doesn’t have leadership skills or is too fearful to use them.
“Our pastor complains because no one had joined our church this conference year.  We have no accessions. The pastor is nice, but he or she doesn’t have the pastoral skills to draw people to our church and he or she has not taken the time to train the laity in the rudiments of evangelism; and has not taken the time to train the ushers about how to greet parishioners.” A pastor needs to visit the sick and take care of the members.
A pastor can’t bring people into the church with the same old worn-out sermons. The people want to be spiritually fed.
The pastor needs to do a followup with people who visit the church, if not in person, with a letter, email message or setup a visitation committee. In other words, a “visitor followup procedure” should be put in place.
Some pastors seem lazy and thoughtless in setting up, nominating and managing the local church leadership team. He (She) thoughtlessly puts people in positions of leadership who are not leaders and in the long run, people will not follow people who are not leaders. The result is the pastoral program never gets off the ground.
“The pastor seems like he / she is ‘out of gas’ with very low energy.  Our pastor is overweight, doesn’t exercise, and has not a medical examination and it looks like he (she) needs to see a dentist. Our pastor neglects his (her) physical, emotional and mental well-being and his (her) lack of energy affects our local church program.” 
“Pastor doesn’t get along with the other pastors in the community and we feel isolated from the other churches. And not only that, our pastor doesn’t seem to have a relationship with the other AME pastors and we feel isolated from our own denomination. We need a sense of camaraderie with the community and with our denomination.”
A pastor needs to broaden her (his) perspective on life and there are more issues than “People are talking about me, Jesus is a doctor in the sick room, a lawyer in the courtroom and Jesus is the bright and morning star.” We are dealing with children on drugs, HIV/AIDS endemic, LBGT family issues, other health issues, depression, investment issues, and issues surrounding long-term medical care and how we are going to financially survive during retirement.  Our pastor preaches as if those are media issues; the folks sitting in the pews are intimately dealing with those issues and we need to hear a relevant word from the Lord.
Pastors serve congregations, but they work for God. Parishioners need a pastor who provides a Word from the Lord, pray for them, and provide nurture for them.
Pastors need to walk the talk and talk the walk. They need to live in such a manner that people will recognize their talk and their walk.
Pastors need to learn to delegate, trust and respect boundaries of responsibilities and step back.
A big part of a pastor’s job is training. If people have not been trained, they may not be able to function at expected levels.
Pastors need to take time to learn, appreciate and know the traditions of a congregation. People are different and each church and geographical area has peculiarities. Pastors should understand that “one size does not fit all.”
Laypeople need to understand that all pastors are not the same. A new pastor might not be like the old pastor and the laity needs to respect the ministry of the pastor in charge.
Pastors should express appreciation to individual laypersons and the membership in general for their extension of kindnesses, monetary support and extraordinary services.  Do not take members for granted. A simple "thank you" or "I appreciate what you do" can work wonders. On the other hand, do not show favoritism by singling out some people for their service while ignoring others.
TCR Editor’s Comment: The “Sidewalk Theological Seminary” is hiring currently hiring lay professors. If any lay persons would like to comment / add/ contribute to the “Sidewalk Theological Seminary" lessons please email “Dean” Calvin H. Sydnor III [email protected], Subject Line: “Sidewalk Theological Seminary” and your comments will be incorporated into “Sidewalk Theological Seminary” lessons for pastors and laity. A seminary or university degree is not necessary, but experience in the pastoral ministry or the local church are a prerequisite. A “Sidewalk Theological Seminary” Lessons for Pastors is being prepared. There is no salary, but we will confer the title, “Professor” to all contributors.
-- Shooting witnesses: 'People were running out of the church, hollering and screaming' ... near Bethel AME Church on East Strawberry Street Wednesday morning.
Read more:
*The Rev. Velma Grant
There has been quite a number of discussions about the absence of or number of Millennials leaving the Church over the last few years.  Various strategies, plans, and articles have also been written about how to maintain and keep these young people active in their local churches. This problem or dilemma is not just isolated to the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) but it affects denominations across Protestant and Catholic lines.
While I am concerned that there is a decline in participation from the above age group, I am also concerned about the dwindling number of older individuals who have departed from the AMEC for one reason or another. No, I do not have statistical data to present in this article but I have met so many “used to be AME” that I am concerned not only about the younger generation but also those that are in my age group (50+) and perhaps older. 
When will there be a clarion call for those individuals who grew up in the AMEC, who sometimes are the children of pastors and presiding elders and perhaps bishops of the church? Did those individuals not embrace and love the doctrine of the AMEC or is the AMEC not relevant to them anymore, hence their departure? Are the reasons for not embracing the AMEC the same for these older individuals as the millennial? I am not sure, in fact the reasons for the absence of either group might seem trivial to a diehard, cradle to the grave AME who perhaps thinks that there will be an entrance in heaven marked “for AMEs only.”
One might think that the AMEC’s presence on almost every continent would be cause enough for the Church to rest on its laurels and not worry about dwindling membership. Such should not be the case especially with the departure of Millennials and those who grew up in the AMEC. Over the years, many who were not “born AME,” have joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church, have a love and affinity for the Church “FUBU” (For Us By Us), but even with those additional individuals the Church is not as strong in membership as it could be considering its roots and origins. Yes, in approximately nine months, individuals will travel to the birthplace of African Methodism to celebrate the Church’s 50th General Conference, 200 years of meetings and conducting the business of the Church. 
What will the membership numbers look like by the time we reach the milestone of the 55th or 60th Quadrennial General Conference in the year 2036 or in the year 2056? Some present readers will not be on this side of the Jordan to experience those General Conferences but history will certainly be a witness to that statistical data. Prayerfully there will be a strategy to either increase membership or at a minimum a strategy to “stop the bleeding” and keep membership at a standstill. Membership is not only about numbers but it also reflects whether or not the African Methodist Episcopal Church is making progress in introducing Christ to others and also making Christ relevant to the lives of every generation.
The church that thrives and survives is one that strikes a balance across all generations, where there is activity across all levels and adequate representation.  Any church that does not have young people or active ministries that maintain and allow young people to grow, is destined to die or cease to exist. On the other hand, any church that does not have a presence of “seasoned saints” is more than likely to make un-avoidable missteps sans the absence of wisdom from those who have been around for awhile (the aged are valued for their wisdom and sound advice).
Each generation seems to think it is the “Joshua generation” with the keys and answers to every dilemma unfixable by the previous generation. Each generation thinks that it has a new and improved way to address every situation but the reality is that each generation has the tools for that particular generation or time. Each generation is a valuable asset to the life of the AMEC and we should be concerned with the exodus of any demographic sector from within our church and seek ways to stop the bleeding. Yes, Millennials are leaving the Church but they are not the only group that is taking part in the obvious exodus from the community of faith.
It is my prayer that the African Methodist Episcopal Church will develop strategies, improves its own relationship with God, provide relevant and progressive ways to minister to God’s people. The Gospel has not changed, the Church just has to find new and innovative way to communicate the message so that there is a balanced, just Church, one that meets the needs of all people regardless of age, sex, race, socio-economic structure, and education. The Church is one foundation, Jesus Christ, so let the numbers reflect that reality.
*The Rev. Velma Grant is the President of the 6th Episcopal District Women In Ministry (WIM)
*D.R. Buffinger, Ph.D,
“Great News Yet Again!”  Evidence of a major turn around at Wilberforce University is the information listed below showing that for the first time in five years; Wilberforce University will hopefully have the annual audit completed in November 2015.
This report issuance will be the earliest issuance of an audit report in over a decade as the previous audit reports listed as appendices were issued as follows:
June 30, 2010 – issued on 10.28.11
June 30, 2011 – issued on 4.27.12
June 30, 2012 – issued on 3.13.13
June 30, 2013 – issued on 12.18.13
June 30, 2014 – issued on 2.27.15
June 30, 2015 – anticipated issuance 11.2015
Wilberforce University has affected Cost Savings on insurance enacting the following activities:
1) The University has redesigned the health care benefit plan to achieve a net savings of 4.7% or $41,448.
2) The University renegotiated the lease purchase buyout in relation to student transportation for a net savings of 81% or $17,000.
3) The University renegotiated the liability, property and other related insurance policies for a net savings of 13% or $65,174.
Wilberforce University continues its impressive turn around under the expert leadership of President Algeania W. Freeman!
Thank you for your kindest consideration.
*D.R. Buffinger, Ph.D, Acting Provost and Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness, Research and Planning
By William McKee
Unfortunately, most higher education news stories are filled with stories of tuition increases, down sizing, and various other challenges. Although these are very important issues and stories, it is good to read of a true story of collegiate institutional success, particularly at one of our nations Historically Black Colleges and Universities. (Hereafter referred to as HBCU’s) HBCU’s in particular have been vexed with a myriad of challenges ranging from changes in student loan requirements to dwindling enrollment. However, this story represents an HBCU success story that could serve as a model for our countries HBCU’s and institutions beyond this designation. For those who may not be aware, HBCU’s are defined as: “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.” HBCUs offer all students, regardless of race, an opportunity to develop their skills and talents. These institutions train young people who go on to serve domestically and internationally in the professions as entrepreneurs and in the public and private sectors. (US Department of Education, Link:
These institutions are true jewels in the crown of America. However due to comprehensive upheaval in the world of Higher Education and the paradox of the civil rights movement, these institutions occupy a somewhat awkward space in the higher education landscape of our nation. The paradox of the civil rights movement in this context refers to the noble fight for inclusion and equal protection under the law in all sectors of society which obviously includes higher education. However, as was addressed in Adams v. Richardson which came on the heels of Brown v. Board of Education, “This case found ten states in violation of the Civil Rights Act for supporting segregated schools. The states were ordered to work actively to integrate institutions, so long as that integration was not carried out at the expense of HBCUs, which were deemed to play an important and unique role in the education of African Americans. (College View, Link: One can easily see that integration, with all of its advantages, had the potential to dilute, HBCU’s. This is compounded by the exclusion of this language in Fordice v. the United States.
I was honored to be invited to serve on a star studded panel (Excluding myself) of HBCU luminaries, titled “The Relevance of HBCU’s in the 21st Century” on September 23rd, which served as the kick off event of the inaugural of Dr. Algenia Freeman, the new President of Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio. The panel consisted of Dr. Mabel Pfeiffer who has been at the forefront of HBCU progressive leadership for decades, Dr. Thelma Thompson, former President of Maryland Eastern Shore University, who distinguished herself in her successful presidency and years of involvement in the area of institutional accreditation, and Wilberforce SGA President Mr. Chaz Waller, who is the prototype of the need and value of the HBCU experience. I left this event with a renewed since of hope and optimism for the future of our schools. Shortly after arriving, and being treated to a one on one breakfast with Wilberforce Vice President for student affairs Dana Merck, who is an ardent advocate for HBCU’s, I was totally impressed with the professionalism of the entire event. This administration has already injected a much needed proverbial “shot in the arm” in one of our nation’s most storied institutions. Enrollment is up, ingenuity is churning and morale is high at our nations oldest private HBCU. In a competitive world, our nation as a whole desperately needs HBCU’s to be vibrant and productive institutions that graduate innovative and creative citizens that go on to spark growth and opportunity for all. This is truly a “Higher Ed rebirth”!
Submitted by D.R. Buffinger, Ph.D Acting Provost and Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness, Research and Planning
Due to the tireless efforts in maintaining the A.M.E. Men's Shelter in Raleigh, N.C., and the renovations recently completed including new tile flooring, new kitchen, modernized marble shower stalls and a new freezer, it was officially renamed and dedicated as the A.M.E. Empowerment Center on Saturday, September 19, 2015.
The dedication was preceded by a worship service hosted by St. Paul A.M.E. - Raleigh where Sister Shirley Sheares, Empowerment Center Director, served as the evening's worship leader. We were favored by music provided by the St. Paul A.M.E. Church Choir and a powerful proclaimed word by guest preacher, Reverend Dr. Staccato Powell, Pastor of Grace A.M.E. Zion Church - Raleigh, N.C. Who spoke from Matthew 25 reminding us to know God for yourself and let your works speak for you - that's the bottomline!
Most notably were the tearful and emotional words of celebration given by the Empowerment Center residents. We can all learn a lesson from them that - your condition is not your conclusion!
We encourage everyone to visit the Empowerment Center and solicit your financial support for the Center's ongoing efforts (visit All donations can be made out to the Washington Conference placing The Empowerment Center in the memo section of your checks. The Empowerment Center is the only one open 24-hr / 7 day per week. Your donations are tax deductible. The Center residents thank you in advance for your generosity.
The Rev. Gina Stewart, a former police officer, is pastor of Mary's Chapel United Methodist Church in Philippi, W.Va. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.
In 17 years as a police officer, the Rev. Gina Stewart found herself in some dicey situations.
“I never had to shoot my gun,” she said. “I did pull it numerous times.”
These days, Stewart is a part-time licensed local pastor, tending four small churches in lovely but hardscrabble Barbour County, where she grew up.
 People ask how she could go from cop to pastor.
“My response is they’re not really so different,” Stewart said. “I’m just giving permanent salvation and permanent safety through God, whereas with law enforcement, it was human safety.”
Stewart, 46, recalls with fondness and gratitude her childhood attendance at Westside United Methodist Church in Belington, a Barbour County town. But what really excited her as a girl was the prospect of joining the police.
“I had nobody who was law enforcement in my family,” she said. “I just knew in my heart that’s what I was meant to do, even though women were not police officers.”
Stewart got a degree in criminal justice and found work with the Morgantown police department, serving first on patrol and later in public affairs. She never stopped loving the work, but a 2006 breast cancer diagnosis signaled the beginning of a period of health crises and operations that eventually caused her to take medical disability.
She had remained an active United Methodist, going on mission trips and serving as a certified lay speaker. In 2010, she became a part-time licensed local pastor, and was appointed to lead two small churches near Morgantown — Riverside and Granville United Methodist.
“I needed a purpose, and they gave me a purpose,” Stewart said.
Last summer, she moved back to her family’s Barbour County farm and assumed leadership of four churches, with a combined membership of about 65. The first and third Sundays, she preaches at Mariah’s Chapel and Arden United Methodist. The second and fourth Sundays, she goes to Mary’s Chapel and Pleasant Creek United Methodist.
When she finishes the first sermon, she heads out the door to the second church. Only one of the churches has a piano player, and two have outhouses. All four are in beautiful settings, and Arden is right by the rushing Tygart River.
Stewart is thrilled that one of her churches, Mary’s Chapel, has had a growth spurt, due to the one little boy who was a regular attendee deciding to invite his friends.
“They’re bringing their mothers,” Stewart said. “We don’t have their fathers yet.”
As much as Stewart would like to see her church buildings full on Sunday, she enjoys praying in them during the week when no one else is around.
And at Arden, she can leave the door open and hear the river.
Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]
*Used with permission of the United Methodist News Service
Central conferences depend on local pastors
Lay pastor Raphaël Aboua serves Ebenezer Beago United Methodist Church in Abidjan and 10 other United Methodist Churches in Côte d’Ivoire.
Raphaël Aboua oversees 11 United Methodist churches in Côte d’Ivoire, serves as president of its United Methodist lay pastors’ group and also shares the gospel via United Methodist radio in his native language, Abouré.
With his salary of $140.15 a month, he’s trying to support his elderly parents and put a daughter through school in Ghana.
Aboua, 51, describes his finances as a major concern, along with lack of equipment (he has no computer) and insufficient training for himself and his colleagues.
“With all this, I know God is with me,” said Aboua, who like other United Methodist lay pastors in his country does not use the title “Reverend.” “As for the difficulties, we are human beings. Until we have finished walking, we continue to swing the arms.”
Just as licensed local pastors are vital to The United Methodist Church in the United States, local or lay pastors play a key role in the central conferences, including areas like Africa and the Philippines where the denomination is growing.
The challenges they face are large. But that they continue to “swing the arms” is appreciated by those who know their work, including Bishop Rodolfo Alfonso Juan.
“There’s a high percentage of local pastors who are achieving well,” Juan said of those in the Philippines’ Manila Episcopal Area, which he oversees. “I’m very happy because most of them are young.”
“I know God is with me,” says lay pastor Raphaël Aboua, who serves Ebenezer Beago United Methodist Church in Abidjan and 10 other United Methodist Churches in Côte d’Ivoire.
A big role
Ordained elders — who have formal theological training, tend to lead larger churches and are eligible to be district superintendents and bishops — can be found all over the central conferences. But local or lay pastors (the latter term is used in Côte d’Ivoire and other parts of Africa) are common as well, numbering in the thousands.
Getting exact numbers is something that has eluded even the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration. The agency collects data on pastors, but because of reporting irregularities and confusion over terminology and reporting forms, doesn’t consider its results particularly reliable.
Snapshot statistics collected directly from sources in the field confirm that local pastors play a big role.
Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco of the Philippines’ Davao Episcopal Area said by email that he oversees 141 elders and 89 local pastors.
“Churches in the Philippines avail themselves of the services of local pastors because elders are not sufficient (in number) to supply appointment,” he said.
In Malawi, there are 22 United Methodist local pastors and just four ordained elders, said Klaus Schmiegel, a teaching missionary for the denomination there.
The situation is flipped in the Germany Episcopal Area, which has 240 elders and only 27 local pastors.
But the latter are valued there, said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner.
“There is not a specific type of congregation where we appoint them to serve,” she said. “We carefully seek to look at gifts and graces, as well as at the needs of congregations, and we seek to build networks for mutual support between the pastors in a certain area.”
The education challenge 
Training for clergy in the central conferences, particularly in Africa, is a major need recognized by the 2012 General Conference, which approved creation of a Central Conference Theological Education Fund with a $5 million budget over four years.
That money has gone to a wide range of locations and programs, including providing e-readers with theological texts to seminary students and pastors in areas where printed materials are scarce.
Training for lay pastors varies considerably in Africa, leaders say, depending on how long The United Methodist Church has been established there and the proximity of seminaries and Bible colleges. 
In Tanzania, a relatively new area for the denomination, lay pastors tend to be those who as members of a specific congregation showed the desire and ability to be a church leader. They gradually work through screening at the district and conference level.
Their training usually falls to district superintendents.
“The quality of that varies based on the DS,” said the Rev. Eric Soard, a United Methodist Board of Global Ministries missionary there.
Soard added that in Tanzania the educational challenges in general are large. For lay pastors in particular, there’s the added problem that many come from another denominational background and don’t know Wesleyan theology.
Finding written materials in their language that can help teach them that theology isn’t easy.
“We’re currently working on creating a Course of Study in Swahili,” Soard said.
The denomination has made progress in translating Course of Study — the training program for local pastors in the United States — into other languages, but needs to do still more, said the Rev. Rena Yocom, who retired last year as executive for clergy formation and theological education at the denomination’s Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
“It is vitally important. You’ve got to give it to people in their own language,” she said.
Conditions in the field
In the Philippines’ Davao Episcopal Area, most local pastors are able to focus on church work and are committed to moving up the clergy ladder.
“Some, because of age and educational qualifications, are not qualified to be promoted, but the goal of every local pastor is to become an ordained elder,” said Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco, who oversees that area.
But in Tanzania, lay pastors usually have to give their non-church time to scraping out a living from the land. Almost all are farmers, Soard said.
Lay pastors’ pay varies considerably across the central conferences, as it does in the United States. But lay pastors can’t count on compensation in Tanzania.
“The churches contribute something to them as they can, but there’s nothing guaranteed,” Soard said. “I would say the majority of them are working pretty much for free.”
The Rev. Wes Magruder served as a Global Ministries missionary in Cameroon from 2004 to 2008, and said money was available to pay lay pastors who led one or more churches there. It was enough to attract pastors from other denominations to The United Methodist Church, he said, but not enough to provide real economic security.
“They either farmed or had their own little ventures here and there,” said Magruder, now pastor of Kessler Park United Methodist Church in Dallas. “They were constantly begging us to raise the stipend.”
The Rev. Sidney Cooper, an elder in the Sierra Leone Conference currently teaching in Zambia, said lay pastors “make the church visible in the community” and sometimes exceed elders in commitment.
But he noted that his own conference struggles to meet its financial obligations to lay pastors, though some live in extreme poverty.
“If they are given something to take care of their basic needs, the ministry will flourish,” Cooper said.
A pastor’s call
In a long interview about his life as a lay pastor in Côte d’Ivoire, Aboua spoke candidly but only briefly about hardships. Mostly he talked about his faith journey and call to ministry.
He underwent a conversion as a young man, worked his way up through local church leadership and ultimately abandoned secular work (and good pay by Côte d’Ivoire standards) to focus on ministry as a lay pastor.
Along the way, things have happened that he is sure are miracles, such as the time he survived falling asleep while driving one night, or the flood that damaged so much in his home but spared all papers dealing with his religious life.
Feeling God has directed him into ministry through those acts and others, Aboua welcomes the six- and sometimes seven-day work weeks, which include leading Bible studies and catechism classes, leading training for Class Meeting leaders, visiting people in their homes for prayer, attending church council and district superintendent meetings, and of course Sunday worship.
It’s a rigorous, often difficult life; but one that affords deep satisfaction.
“I feel the joy of serving the Lord, doing the work of God and seeing lives changed,” Aboua said.
Broune, former communicator for The United Methodist Church in Côte d’Ivoire, is now a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School and works for United Methodist Communications.
Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].
*Used with permission of the United Methodist News Service
Read more:
*The Reverend Dr. Charles R. Watkins, Jr.
Based on Biblical Text: Mark 8:36 KJV: “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
Isn’t it interesting that God has provided us with two separate ends. Think about it, on one end we can think and on one end we can sit.
I submit that when you sum it all up, it appears that the end we actually utilize more frequently will determine how far we go in life.
I’ve seen it written somewhere, “Heads, you are a winner and tails, you are a loser!” We must use our thinking end. We must use our minds. We cannot waste our minds.
An opportunity or good fortune is another thing we should not waste. Think of the person who is blessed enough to inherit or earn a large sum of money in their lifetime and then squanders it living irresponsibly. That person will miss out on the opportunity to do the greatest good for the Lord. Misappropriation or mismanagement of finances is a great waste.
A good example of a wasted fortune is the story of the Prodigal Son. We find that the younger son rejected the disciplined life imposed by his father in lieu of his own style of living. As expected, it was not long before his “substance” had been wasted and his only choice was to return home or starve. We are cautioned not to waste our fortune.
While it is certainly sad for a person to waste their mind and their fortune, that person will find even more sorrow and more pain if they lose their soul. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
To help us understand I offer these comparisons. Imagine if you will a person trading a Rolex watch for a Greyhound bus ticket. Or consider the politician who would gain a high position in state or federal government by losing his reputation by inappropriate behavior; what would it profit him or her?
What would it profit someone to buy some expensive living room furniture and then lose their house? What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his or her soul?
We sometimes forgo “this to get that,” and we sacrifice “this to gain that” because we find life is full of trade-offs. But we must be careful because there are some trade offs that just don’t make any sense.
We must be aware of the permanence of losing our soul.
Think about it, a wasted mind can be rehabilitated. The truth is a wasted fortune is not the end of the world. We always have tomorrow to try to earn it again.
But, when a person loses his soul, there is no recovery. There is no recycling program for wasted souls. Wasted souls cannot be salvaged or repaired.
Once a soul is lost, it cannot be recovered. The truth of the matter is a soul ending up in that burning fire in Hell is destined to remain there throughout eternity; an extremely frightening thought! We cannot take the risk of losing our souls.
Let me digress. What do we mean when we speak of a man or woman’s soul?
The fact is that the word “soul” probably has more definitions than any other word in the dictionary.
In scripture, the word soul is used interchangeably with words as “life, breath, mind, heart and spirit.”
In our world, we know soul food and soul music. We understand the word takes on more meaning. The word “soul” can actually describe the essence of our cultural inheritance.
The soul is the invisible part of our human make-up that makes us kin to God. The soul is also that intangible aspect of our being that endows us with a free-will, enabling us to choose God’s will for our lives.
It is that quality within all of us that gives us the potential to achieve immortality. We are created in the image of God and equipped with immortal souls modeled after His likeness.
In Genesis 2:7 it says, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
In other words we not only have a soul, we are a soul! All that we are, our personality, our purpose, the desires of our heart are embodied in an outer shell called the body. But the body is not a man or woman; the soul is the essence of our lives.
So what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? 
What does it profit us to lose our personality, that which makes us uniquely different from all other men and women? What does it profit a person to gain wealth and fame, power and prestige, if he or she loses his or her identity with God in the process? We cannot lose our soul!
*The Reverend Dr. Charles R. Watkins, Jr., is the pastor of Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina
*The Rev. Gwendolyn Hatter and Dr. Oveta Fuller
A goal of Getting to Zero (G20) is to bring into focus issues that affect wellness so to collectively explore what leaders of the Church can and must do to effectively promote wellness. We provide insights to understand and implement improvements for wellness.
The insights range from science and clinical discoveries to relevant real life experiences. We seek to offer these in easy to read and enjoyable articles.  What was initiated in part to address HIV/AIDS has morphed into addressing physical, mental and spiritual wellness. It is a calling and charge that we hope provokes thoughts, active engagement and changes among readers, families, leaders and community.
October is a month to focus on Mental Health.  Specific observances include National Depression Screening Awareness Day on October 8, World Mental Health Day on October 10 and National Mental Illness Awareness Week on October 11-17.
There is a growing realization among African Americans and others that depression is not something that happens to someone else, to those people—it too is our disease. In the month of October 2015 we will provide a series of G20 articles providing insights into depression.
I am profoundly grateful to the Rev. Gwendolyn Hatter as a guest contributor on the topic of Depression. She is a highly engaged colleague on the ministerial staff of Brown Chapel AME Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
We provide here the first in a three-part series. “Let those who have an ear, hear” and act from a place of new understanding.
Depression:  Understanding the Silent Epidemic Among Us
I love the month of October, with leaves bursting in beautiful hues of gold, red, orange and brown.  Autumn brings with it a mixture of warmish days and cool nights; of sights and smells that tantalize our senses in overwhelmingly pleasant ways.  Yet with all of the beauty of fall, you might not even notice, care or be able to experience the season ... if you are depressed. 
I am not a “mental health professional” and do not claim to be. However, I have both personal and intellectual knowledge of the subject. 
The following is written from the heart and I pray that it will be taken as a first-hand experience by one whom the Lord, Himself, healed.  It is my hope that this article will shed light on the subject of depression among Christians in order to remove the “stigma” often associated with it and perhaps help someone suffering under its debilitating effects.
My Personal Journey
As I look back, I can still remember how deeply her words cut me.  “I know what you are doing!” my co-worker emphatically stated, as if she had somehow been given some supernatural ability that enabled her to diagnose my behavior. Her inference was that I had turned to alcohol as a means of coping day-to-day.  She was a street-wise individual and, although we both worked in higher education and both were Christians, her understanding of life was restricted to the environment out of which she had come.  Her observation and analysis of my missing days, arriving late, and losing an extreme amount of weight, added up to what her world pointed to – either alcohol or drug abuse.
The problem with her “diagnosis” was that she was 500% wrong!  Anyone who knew me knew that I was not a drinker, could not stand drugs and did not want to be around anyone who used either.  In her limited experience she imposed her “insights,” further compounding a severe problem I battled each day.
Should I tell her that each morning, after shuttling my four children to school, I often returned to my bed and laid with what felt like a heavy anvil pressing on my chest, immobilizing me from getting dressed and going to work?  Should I let her know that many times I sat on the edge of the bed, rocking and rocking trying to gain the strength, the energy to propel myself into the shower?  Would it matter to her that once I actually got in the shower, I had to repeat over and over again to myself “I’ll get out in a moment,” but could not do so until the hot water finally ran cold. 
In this day and time of intellectual enlightenment, ignorance is no excuse for injuring people already suffering under the burden of emotional and mental health issues. 
If she would have had even an ounce of compassion rather than a pound of judgment, she might have arrived at a completely different conclusion:  depression. 
What she observed in me were classic symptoms of this debilitating condition: loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss; an inability to cope with day-to-day activities; fatigue; difficulty focusing; withdrawal, and the list goes on. 
Perhaps the most injurious part of the assessment was that not only did she articulate it to me, but she spread this vicious gossip to others – others who were all too ready to believe it.  I often wonder why we are quick to believe a lie rather than investigate and find the truth. 
During that time, work – which had once been my haven from the pressures of life – became for me the place of the most pain.  No one considered that something more complex could be going on with me; no one ever asked if they could help.  I was a “ship lost in the sea” of darkness called depression – until Jesus literally rescued me.
In Luke 4:18, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed.” 
Christians must somehow make the connection between Jesus’ mission and His power to deliver those who are hurting.  The same power to heal that is available in medical situations is the same power available to heal and set free prisoners ‘captive’ who are sitting in the dark places of their mind.
What is Depression?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during the year 2013 an estimated 15.7 million adults over the age of 18 had at least one major depressive episode.  This statistic reflects 6.7 percent of the United States adult population. 
A major depressive episode is defined as “a period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.”1
According to a study conducted by Clergy Initiatives at Duke Divinity School, clergy are 1.5 times more likely to become depressed than a lay person. 
(To be continued next week in Part 2)
1 The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), Fourth Edition
*The Rev. Gwendolyn Hatter, a TCR guest contributor serves on the ministerial staff of Brown Chapel AME Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
*The Rev. Oveta Fuller Caldwell, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan (U-M) Medical School, Associate Director of the U-M African Studies Center and an AMEC itinerant elder and former pastor. She lived in Zambia for most of 2013 to study HIV/AIDS prevention among networks of religious leaders.
*Brother Bill Dickens
Key Verse:Immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’” Acts 9:20
Today is the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. 
A rookie quarterback in the National Football League has a tough job.  He is not only trying to land a job, but also must master a thorough understanding of a complex playbook, adjust to a faster level of play and attempt to become in synch with his fellow teammates.  When a rookie is in the huddle and calls out his first play, all eyes by his offensive teammates will be fixated on what he has to say. 
Rookie quarterbacks must earn the right to be heard by his teammates. For many of his teammates, he is still “green” and unproven and until he can establish himself as a true leader, he will be looked upon with deep suspicion. 
Today’s lesson in Acts 9: 19-31 illustrates the point of giving people the benefit of the doubt. 
Paul’s early ministry was viewed much like the rookie quarterback. Few people, even his fellow workers for Christ gave him the benefit of the doubt. 
He was viewed with skepticism based on his prior life.  After preparation and prayer Paul was ready and equipped to launch his new occupation.  He earned the right to be heard.  While just a “rookie in the Gospel” he preached and taught like a savvy, seasoned veteran.  Let’s hear what the new quarterback has to say.
Bible Lesson
Saul’s initial preaching produces consternation among everyone who knows of his prior reputation.  Among the Jews living in Damascus (v 22) and in their synagogues, Saul’s message is powerful (v 22) and convincing to the effect “that Jesus is the Christ.”  Undoubtedly, Saul had much to learn, but his extensive knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures probably came alive in their implications and prophecies of the messiah providing fertile sources for such evangelism.  That was just the beginning!
Another pattern has begun that initially fulfilled the commission for Saul to suffer. 
The “Jews conspired to kill him” (v 23) but he learns of the plot, hides himself and eventually escapes in a basket through an opening in the wall (v 25).  Luke’s purpose in this story may have been to provide clear evidence of Saul’s faith and perhaps the ironic fact that the persecutor becomes the persecuted.  At least Saul could understand his persecutors’ motives.
Saul’s first attempt to join the disciples at Jerusalem is met with suspicion and fear ((vs. 25-30).  Barnabas becomes a sponsor and comes to his aid by giving him a proper introduction.  Barnabas’ confidence in the reality of Saul’s conversion inspires confidence in the Jerusalem disciples, allowing him to move freely and preach boldly. 
The Grecian Jews debate with him as they did with Stephen.  History repeats itself and they try to kill him (v 29). 
The believers hear of the death sentence and rescue him and send him off to Tarsus, the place of his birth and principal city of the Roman province of Cilicia. (v 30).
Bible Application
Everybody needs a sponsor.  A sponsor can help open doors that were previously closed.  A sponsor can connect you with key people who can help advance your career.  A sponsor can provide a wide of information that can prepare you for the next steps in life. 
Paul’s sponsor was Ananias.  Paul was eager to start his preaching ministry, but his Christian colleagues still had some doubts.  Erasing these doubts meant Paul had to establish credibility before launching into his new career. 
Credibility is important because it helps others have confidence in your “sales pitch.” An insurance salesperson can make an effective sale, if, and only if, the prospective client believes in you and the product you are offering. 
The credibility issue is not solved overnight.  It takes time.  Paul experienced a credibility issue and that is why his sponsor/mentor Ananias was important. 
Change is often associated with suspicion.  Once credibility is established suspicion dissipates and at that point you have earned the right to be heard. QED
*Brother Bill Dickens is currently the Church School Teacher at Allen AME Church in Tacoma, Washington. He is currently a member of the Fellowship of Church Educators for the African Methodist Episcopal Church
*The Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Darby
I’m writing this meditation after a harrowing weekend in South Carolina, when unprecedented, torrential rain caused “thousand year” flooding that destroyed homes, businesses, roads and communities across the state.  I pray for those who lost property and for the families of those who lost their lives, but something that a friend of mine said in the wake of that natural disaster offered a ray of hope and inspiration that extends beyond the still lingering flood waters.
My friend lives in a part of Columbia, South Carolina that’s not far from where over ten feet of water totally submerged a business district and forced home evacuations and rescues from swift waters that swamped neighborhoods.  When I emailed him to see if he and his family were alright, he sent back a reply that said, “We’re fine - the flooding all around us was unbelievable, but we live on high ground, so we had no problems.”
I’m humbly and thankfully blessed to say that the same was true for me and for mine - we had a few large puddles in our yard and on our street for a couple of days, but no major flooding because we also live on high ground.
“Living on high ground” is a blessing that goes beyond horrifically inclement weather.  It’s easy for the best of us to respond to the demands of a very competitive world by building our lives on our education, connections, wealth, personal power and the things in life that convey the message to others that we’ve “arrived” and achieved success, happiness and prosperity.
When we leave God out, however, we build on shaky and uncertain ground, for the things that we most cherish in this world are fleeting at best and can easily be swept away by sickness, sorrow, trouble and confusion.
When we take the time, however, to build instead on the Jesus who gave His life for our salvation, we’ll be anchored to a strong, enduring Rock who gives us peace in the midst of life’s storms and permanent well-being that can’t be easily swept away.
Build your life on “the Rock” that is Jesus.  You’ll have enduring hope, everlasting joy, unshakeable faith and the firm assurance of the hymn writer who said, “Lord, lift me up and let me stand by faith on heaven’s table land; a higher plane that I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
This Meditation is also available as a Blog on the Beaufort District’s Website:
Get Ready for Sunday, and have a great day in your house of worship!
*The Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Darby is the Presiding Elder of the Beaufort District of the South Carolina Annual Conference of the Seventh Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
The Third District Office sadly announces the passing of Mr. Dee Roberson.  Mr. Roberson is the father of Marlyce Roberson-McCants, Connectional Worship Director for the Women’s Missionary Society and father-in-law of the Rev. John H. McCants, pastor of Grace AMEC in Warren, Ohio. 
At the request of the family, please no flowers.  A private memorial service and interment will be held. 
Expressions of sympathy may be sent to:
Marlyce Roberson-McCants
14 Arms Blvd, Apt. 1
Niles, OH  44446
Email: [email protected]
Arrangements are entrusted to:
Beuschel Funeral Home
5018 Alpine Avenue, NW
Comstock Park, MI
Telephone: (616) 785-3863
It is with a sad heart that we inform you of the sudden death of the Rev. Jerry Powers, pastor of Mt Ararat AME Church in Wilmington, NC.  He was the brother of the Rev. Onita Dupree. The Rev. Powers transitioned his life on Saturday morning, October 3, 2015 in Lumberton [North Carolina] Hospital.  Please pray for the Powers family.
Arrangements for the Rev. Jerry M. Powers are as follows:
Wake: Friday night October 9, 2015
Revels Funeral Home
3575 N. Roberts Ave.
Lumberton, NC  28360
Telephone: (910) 671-6886
Time: 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Homegoing Service: Saturday, October 10, 2015:
McCormick Chapel AME Church
215 Main Street
Lumberton, NC  28359
Telephone: (910) 739-0616
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Correspondences may be sent to:
The Rev. Onita Dupree
160 Powell Street
Lumberton, NC 28358
Telephone: (910) 735-2538
Ora L. Easley, Administrator
AMEC Clergy Family Information Center
Email: [email protected] 
Web page: 
Telephone: (615) 837-9736 (H)
Telephone: (615) 833-6936 (O)
Cell: (615) 403-7751
The Chair of the Commission on Publications, the Right Reverend T. Larry Kirkland; the Publisher, the Reverend Dr. Johnny Barbour and the Editor of The Christian Recorder, the Reverend Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III offer our condolences and prayers to those who have lost loved ones. We pray that the peace of Christ will be with you during this time of your bereavement.













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