Faith of A Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington, M. Div.

It occurs to me that this current status of “Church Closed” by “The State” under a Covid-19 order, as unconstitutional as it may be, has given rise to the most “Chaotic State” of life as seen by most all who are yet alive.  With both “The Schools” AND “The Churches” Closed, “Social Distancing” has become the order of the day.  While the Educational Life and the Religious Life of the nation has been banished to ‘cyberspace’; the Political Life has propelled us into non-stop utter… Chaos.  The very last of the God give rights… to “Breathe Fresh Air” -even now being taken away as politicians decide that “Masks” must be worn at all times at the risk of their… police state!

In the mean time, Church Folks do not, I repeat, DO NOT take your eyes of the “Church as our only Black Community Real Estate.”  Fact is that there are Black Church properties built on land given by Black Families with contingency clauses that if the property ceases to be a Church, the land must be returned to the Family.

My 2nd Year in Seminary, I received a Letter dated “September 11, 1979” from the Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman’s Educational Trust:   “I am pleased to extend to you on behalf of the Howard Thurman Trust in invitation to participate in a seven day intensive seminar discussion with me on the grounds and the meaning of religious experience.  We will examine the bearing of these elements on the life and the fulfillment of those of us whose roots are in the black community.  The general direction of our discussion will be along the lines of my statement in “Jesus and the Disinherited.”  You will be one of ten young people from different sections of the United States.  All of whom have two things in common:  1) The “nerve center of consent” has been given to the religious life as a personal commitment and 2) each one is Black.”  When I returned to school, I chased the reason why I was selected among the entire student body for this endeavor and learned that it was because of the way I took notes in class!

While my Seminary Mentor Congregation was Central Church with the Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery my shepherd Pastor, Elma Joyce Harris was Mentoring at Ben Hill Church being shepherded by Rev. Cornelius Henderson.  Which is the return to “This Vision of Black Church”.

At the close of what I still consider the most important Conference Panel Dialogue that I have experience in Black United Methodism, Bishop Nichols, as Moderator, asked me and Rev. Elma Joyce if we would join him, Rev. James and Rev. Henderson for a Documentation Strategy Session.  When the Five of us sat at table, Bishop Nichols asked me if I would take the responsibility for transcribing and putting a presentation of the Conference together for publication.  He then asked Rev. Henderson to give me copies of the tapes made in order to deliver this.  After several follow up attempts, I was unable to received anything from Rev. Henderson.

Each time Joyce called to inquire if I had received the tapes of the 1993 African American United Methodist Clergy Summit from Rev. Henderson, the answer was No.  She knew the ‘secret’ better than I did and asked for my ‘notes’.  While somewhere pack away in my boxes of archives I have total and complete documentation of this history, I must rely upon memory.  The Rev. Elma Joyce Harris, then a Pastor in the Kansas Conference, took my notes and carved out a “Black Clergy Women’s Agenda”;  applied for and received a grant for a Planning meeting where she flew in 8 Clergy Women for a two day “working through” of what we had taken away from the Atlanta Clergy Summit.

In August of 1993 we met at a hotel in Cleveland.  In two days we returned to our homes with the Vision of introducing this agenda to the 1994 National “Black Methodist For Church Renewal” meeting as the birthing of “BMCR Clergywomen”.  The organizing of the Clergy Women at the March 1994 BMCR meeting in Philadelphia was like none that I had experienced in all my years of attending.  Highlighting our work was the First BMCR Clergy Women’s Banquet with the late Bishop Leontine Kelly as Speaker.

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