As we traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue, America's Street, we found ourselves situated between the United States Supreme Court and The White House in the building of the Newseum. The sight of scholars from six major black seminaries was inspiring. The room reaped of anticipation as we all waited to hear from the esteemed thought leaders who would guide our conversations.
Throughout today's message, there was one theme woven in the lectures of each of the presentations: a cup we all can drink from. It surfaced in Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook's talk of her work, where she reminded us that "to be diplomat, you have to sit with whomever is on the other side." She encouraged us to "be open to cross the aisles." Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, President of the Historic Black Church Family of Christian Churches Together (CCT), continued this thought when she brought the word ecumenism (the principle or aim of promoting unity among the world's Christian Churches) into the space. Ms. Tschika McBean, Human Rights Officer with the U.S. Baha'i Office of Public Affairs (OPA), shared with us the beliefs of the Baha'i that "there is one religion of God with many chapters." Dr. Sabrina Dent, Director of Recruitment and Admissions, Religious Freedom Center, boldly proclaimed that "the narratives have to be written differently and must include the voices that were no there before." And, our very own Dr. Itihari Touré provided us with the beautiful imagery, so we could visibly see theology in practice.
As we worked through the tension of what was missing and looked at how we handled our own cup, I thought of the varying ways we leave leave others out, but after a conversation with a classmate, my questions were expanded to not ask who was missing, but who’s at the table that we are ignoring? Which cups do we see no value in? Which cups have we and do we constantly overlook? And, in what ways are we enslaving others either through the silencing of their voices, the shackling of their body, or the ignoring of their presence.
I believe a cup that does not speak to someone's authenticity is missing from the table, but in saying that, a major hindrance can be the table itself. The space can be limited. And, if you spread out to make room, it may get to a place where it’s too big. We have to question if it is accessible and attainable to everyone. Is it too high? Too low? Have adequate seating? And, is it open seating or assigned seat? We have to look at how we allow access to the table, so they can share their cup.
By: Rev. Tashara Void
When I visited Pennsylvania in January they spoke about the possibilities of doing an internship with the conference. I did not think that they were serious until I got the call from Pastor Jason Mackey asking if I was still interested. This summer they granted me the opportunity to serve the Susquehanna Conference as a Pastoral intern. I will be serving at the Linglestown Life UMC under the direction of Pastor George Reynolds. I will be serving alongside Pastor Reynolds learning about the culture and community of Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna Conference. At Linglestown Life, I will be using his gifts and graces in the areas of preaching and singing. I will be learning the process by which Pastor George does his sermon series planning for the year. In this internship, I will also be a part of the restructuring process that the church is doing as it relates to the operations of the church. The Church is going through a process that is trying the lead the way the ministry is run and operated for the 21st century. The operations such as the SPRC, Trustee and the laity and trying to merge these into a single entity. I will also be ministering at the Susquehanna Annual Conference as a guest vocalist on the closing ceremony as well as a ministering at the laity sessions for the conference. I preached at Linglestown Life UMC on June 3, 2018, in which the Bishop Attended the service. I will be leading my own 3 part sermon series entitled “Stories Retold” July 29, Aug. 5 and 12. This is an experience I believe will lead to many more opportunities.
By: Amy Nut
July 31, 2014, I entered the campus of Gammon Theological Seminary through the gates of the Interdenominational Theological Center. I began to breathe, and my heart started beating rapidly. With my husband, John’s hand held tightly in mine, we walked the campus. We were greeted by Reverend Sandy Hall, assistant to the President of Gammon, Dr. Albert D. Mosley. The July day was warm and full of typical southern humidity, but I felt the winds of change blowing all around me. John and I whispered to one another, as if, not to disturb the sacred spirits that communed around us, of the gentle peace and electric energy we felt.
I remember the feeling of being completely enthralled with the idea of sharing a theological journey with five other denominations: The Baptist School of Theology, Turner Theological Seminary, Phillips School of Theology, Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary, and Richardson Ecumenical Fellowship. This concept was new to me as I had never heard of a United Methodist Seminary being connected to an Afrocentric ecumenical . The only one in the world, as I would later learn.
As if I needed confirmation, when I saw the sign of motto for Gammon, “Light, Freedom, Truth, be ever these our own; Light to seek the Truth, Freedom to make it known; Our work, God’s work, Our will, God’s will alone”, I felt God’s will confirmed for me to attend Gammon. As I was a little late in the game to sign up for the Fall semester of 2014, I did find myself registered for the Spring 2015 semester as a Distance Learner. I had found my freedom in a physical, existence of brick and mortar tightly tucked away from the chaotic rush of downtown Atlanta, GA. This began my journey to seek to understand how God was leading me on a path to seek a Masters of Divinity. Something that I had thought was unobtainable for a little white girl from Chickamauga, Georgia. A little girl who felt a calling from God to preach at the age of eight years old, as she watched her daddy preach Sunday after Sunday in the Church of Christ.
The real discovery at Gammon has been finding a freedom in being the woman I was created to be. I am a woman who is ever aware of who is missing at the table, I look for the least, the last, and the lost, perhaps because for most of my life, I felt lost without a voice.
Some people might see me walking the campus of ITC, and think “that little white girl must be lost”, but walking this campus I have found myself. I found myself, because my brothers and sisters of ITC, did see me. They not only saw the color of my skin, but they found the truth of my heart. I was found because I was trusted to see the hearts of others. I was found because, the ITC staff, facility, and students worked to have God’s will become their will. In this light of truth, I have found freedom in living out God’s will. In God’s will alone, I am a proud student of Gammon looking for others to join me at the table.
I will walk the ITC campus, once again on July 31st, as I have every year since 2014 to celebrate my birthday. This year I will walk onto campus as a Middler, resident student with a plan to graduate Spring 2020. I walk on the campus ready to help find the least, the lost and last, because it is a big table, with a big feast of grace and joy. A table big enough for everyone!
By Nicolas Pettye
Author B.J. Neblett once said that we all are the sum of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are… None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.” Although, Neblett may not be regarded as a philosopher by the academic community, his statement certainly embodies a philosophy in very modest language that my journey as a seminarian substantiates… especially the genesis of my journey. In fact, I discern a call by G-d to share the challenges that I have encountered during my early semesters for not only my own cathartic relief but also to be an advocate for others who have either recently darkened the doors of a seminary or look forward to this rapturous experience. To persons of both statuses I dedicate these words.
During the summer preceding my senior year of college, I experienced the strangest and most unsettling phenomenon. One morning I woke up and saw that three mysterious bumps had developed overnight on my skin. Since they did not itch, I concluded that they were not insect bites. Each morning I would discover that the old bumps from the previous day had disappeared and new ones had formed… something clearly was not right. As time progressed, the bumps had increased in size, spread all over my body, and itched incessantly. These were not merely bumps… they were hives. I scheduled an appointment with a doctor and then an allergist as soon as possible which yielded no fruitful results. Neither could diagnose my condition, leaving me to itch day and night with no relief amid all the demands of a graduating senior. Once I finally graduated and reached Atlanta, the hives seemed to marginally subside. This was greatly misleading because they returned full-throttle… and with a vengeance!
It was during my earlier semesters in seminary that this enigmatic, merciless condition dealt its most devastating blow. Not only had the hives worsened but they were accompanied by the most unpleasant swelling of the deeper layers of my skin. On many occasions I could not sleep because the swelling caused me to snore so loudly that I awakened myself. The constant itching and sleep deprivation made studying an insurmountable task, especially since I had to read texts such as Nicomachean Ethics and Plato’s Republic. My future seemed bleak… but things soon changed for the better.
A dermatologist was finally able to get her hands on my medical record to reach out to me to schedule an appointment. Fortunately, she was able to diagnose my condition as chronic idiopathic urticaria and prescribe a treatment that was an answer to prayers because my condition has completely disappeared! Ever since my treatment, my academic performance and sleeping regimen have improved considerably. I am now much more optimistic about my future since that massive wall of infirmity has been torn down.
To all the other current and prospective seminarians who have also been demoralized by adversity, or will in the future, I extend this testimony and these words of consolation. Remind yourself daily of G-d’s love for you, how G-d called you to serve G-d, and how G-d has the power to deliver you. You too are on a journey… an evolving journey that turns when you least expect it so take delight in the fact that tomorrow will look different from yesterday.
My name is Jacqueline M. Davis-Gines, Ph.D. I just completed my first year at Gammon Theological Seminary here at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC). I have enjoyed my journey, thus far. It has been enlightening and challenging. It has challenged my beliefs, thoughts, and values. Each class has created a snow ball effect. As I go from class to class, my ball of knowledge grows larger, more comprehensive, and more intensive, as I roll along. It is systematically tearing down my misconceptions, misinterpretations, and misnomers. I never conceived the possibilities this education offers me. I am enlightened, inspired and empowered daily at Gammon and the ITC. This is my first opportunity to attend a predominately black institution, which teaches from an Africentric perspective, using inclusive language. This alone has been one of the most eye-opening experiences I have known.
Walking on this campus changed my life. I have been built up in places I did not know were torn down. I have encountered and acknowledged issues I did not know existed. In my first year, I have received a lifetime of education and correction. One of the most compelling aspects of this education is the family-type environment created in every classroom. As students, colleagues, children of God and descendants of Africa, we truly support and love one another. We offer daily affirmation and constant encouragement. We eat together, laugh together and often cry together as each person transcends and emerges from their Sheol and embraces their personal breakthrough.
We are taught by world renown, influential, published theologians who are relevant and relatable. Each professor has a genuine love for the students and takes a personal interest in the success of each one. This is the first time I have had day to day contact and interaction with a Bishop in the United Methodist Church System. Having a Bishop in residence here at Gammon is a unique and inspiring experience. But, having Bishop James King is a blessing from God and a special, beautiful gift to every person he encounters. Bishop King has a way of making you want to be better. He is a giant among men; but, humble, kind and the most loving person I have ever met. To know him is to love him. Bishop King is anointed of the Lord. His anointing is so strong it lingers in the room, like a fine oil; and we, his students are given the privilege to bask in it.
Gammon Theological Seminary is not only a place of learning, it is an individualized experience. It is a personal encounter with the Supreme G-d and with the god in you. It is owning a rich, productive, creative, and exalted heritage stolen from enslaved people. It is an opportunity to loose your shackles; so you might be freed from the Slaveholders religion. It is also an invitation to join the ranks of great theologians offering a liberating and more historically accurate theology to the people of G-d.
The Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) is a consortium of denominational seminaries whose mission is to educate Christian leaders for ministry and service in the Church and the global community. The ITC educates and nurtures women and men who commit to and practice: a liberating and transforming spirituality; academic discipline; religious, gender, and cultural diversity; and justice and peace. On Saturday, May 12, 2018, The Interdenominational Theological Center celebrated the commencement of the Class of 2018. The ceremony recognized 64 students; Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and Doctor of Ministry (D.Min). Gammon Theological Seminary had 5 Master of Divinity and 3 Doctor of Ministry students to get there degrees:
Britt, Dawn - Doctor of Ministry
Cummings, Tariq - Doctor of Ministry
Thompson, Christopher - Doctor of Ministry,
Birt, Edward - Master of Divinity/ Master of Christian Education
Pearson, Charles - Master of Christian Education
Dallas, Paula - Master of Divinity
Mazyck, Bernett - Master of Divinity
Thompson, Cheron - Master of Divinity
Gammon Theological Seminary would like to take this time to wish each of you best wishes in your ministries to come. Take in this moment of commencement of the rest of your life’s journey, look around you, and please take this opportunity to congratulate one another on an outstanding accomplishment.
Students of Gammon!