A few weeks ago I was focused on the difficulty of addressing mundane things after having spent such fruitful time with my colleague-friends at Duke. Then my grandfather passed away at the age of 104. Suddenly the mundane was interrupted by logistics around getting to South Carolina for Granddaddy's home-going celebration. The experience of laying to rest the larger-than-life patriarch of our family reminded me that I am the granddaughter of James Wigfall Sr. and Mary Ferguson Wigfall, who were beloved by community, church, and family. I come from a rich legacy of faith and service, and I am anointed to do the work that has been assigned to my hands.
Before I could fully return to the normalcy of my everyday life, another fruitful disruption arose in the form of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. I'd been hearing of the Proctor Conference for years, but I tend to avoid ministry conferences since I feel like AME's have to attend so many. On a more truthful note, I had no interest in paying hundreds of dollars to be among celebrity pastors who may or may not deem you worthy of engaging. That's right, I said it. But since two of my friend-colleagues
coerced convinced me to me to go, I decided to attend. I am so glad I did.
The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC) was created to continue the legacy of the faith community's engagement in issues of social justice. In addition to their commitment to engaging the church in discussion and action related to social justice, I also found that this is a community and family of seminarians, pastors, preachers, teachers, lay, sages, theologians, biblical scholars, servants, workers, activists, and freedom fighters who have supported and equipped each other through the years to be able to put their hands to the difficult work of advocacy and activism. The usual things that are said about good conferences can be said here- the worship was great; the preaching and plenaries were extraordinary. More importantly however is the indelible mark this experience has left that challenges and convicts as it relates to my preaching, my ministry, the way I do business, and the way I do life.
Can I also just say that at various moments at the conference I found myself being teased about my small size by Dr. Susan Johnson-Cook (former US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom and the first female senior pastor in the 200-year history of the American Baptist Churches USA); being photo-bombed by Dr. Valerie Bridgeman (womanist theologian and biblical scholar) and Dr. Gina Stewart (professor and pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church); holding the hand of Rev. Dionne Boissiere (Chaplain of the Church Center for the U.N.), and shaking hands with Dr. Allan Boesak (theologian and South African anti-apartheid activist) after he'd concluded a meeting with my friend. And though I nearly fainted in each of these instances, sharing this is not an exercise in name dropping since I am pretty certain I will not be attending Thanksgiving dinner at any of their homes. My point is that I met and talked with people I probably would not have the chance to even meet, much less talk with, had they come to preach at my church. Yet they were accessible (without armor bearers and handlers), open to chatting, and generous with their time and spirit. There's so much more about this great experience that I hope to share in future posts, but if you have felt like I have about ministry conferences, you ought to consider attending the Proctor Conference.