Each year, the Urban Theological Institute at ULS hosts its Preaching with Power event, inviting distinguished African-American clergy and theologians to preach and lecture (mostly preach!) at the ULS Philadelphia Campus and at churches around Philadelphia. As usual, this year produced a host of powerful messages delivered with the deep passion and erudition that is a tradition in our African-American places of worship.
The featured guests were Rev. Dr. Marsha Brown Woodard, Director of Supervised Ministries and Senior Lecturer in Christian Ministry at Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, who gave a lecture at the Philadelphia Campus; Bishop J. Louis Felton, Senior Pastor at Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ (COGIC), who preached at his church; UTI Director Rev. Dr. Quintin L. Robertson preached at Mt. Airy COGIC, and at Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Germantown; Rev. Dr. Marcus D. Cosby, Senior Pastor at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, TX, also preached at Mt. Zion; Rev. Dr. Jawanza K. Colvin, Pastor at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, OH, preached at Dare to Imagine Church; Rev. Cean R. James, an LTSP Alumnus and Founder and Pastor of Grace Fellowship United Church of Christ in the Elmwood neighborhood of Southwest Philadelphia, preached at the Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapel on the Philadelphia Campus; Rev. CeCee Mills, Associate Director for African Descent Ministries for the ELCA, preached at Reformation Lutheran Church; and Bishop John R. Bryant, Retired Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, preached at Mt. Tabor AME Church.
Preaching with Power is well-attended by ULS students as the preachers are some of the best in the country each year, with this year being no exception. Listening to sermons in the various venues also gives students a chance to experience worship in a different denomination, which is always a worthwhile and educational experience.
Bertha Cobia, a second-year M.Div. Student seeking ordination in the AME and a licensed evangelist in her denomination, heard Rev. James preach at the Philadelphia Campus. She said it was an enriching experience, “because he not only taught about preaching, but he took the scripture and he fit in to black religion.” Rev. James preached on Mark 10:46-52, the story of Jesus healing Bartimaeus, a blind man. “[Rev. James asked,] why do we holler? Why do we get up with excitement in the middle of a sermon?” Cobia said. “That’s the experience in the black religion. Bartimaeus was excited to be in the presence of Jesus, and the black church does the same thing. The excitement, the anticipation of Jesus coming into the service, the Holy Spirit coming into the service. It’s the same thing.”
Joel Davis, a second year M.Div. student seeking ordination in the Episcopal Church, heard Bishop Bryant preach at Mt. Tabor. “I always have mixed feelings after hearing a Preaching with Power sermon,” Davis said. “On the one hand, the preachers are just amazingly powerful, intelligent and commanding in their material and in their presentations. On the other hand, I’m a seminary student, and I’m sitting there, hearing this just amazing sermon, thinking, ‘they expect me to do that? To preach that well?’ Bishop Bryant actually directed his sermon at those of us in the audience who are called to be ministers of the church, and he exhorted us — there’s really no other word — to have the courage of our convictions and our faith in our preaching and in our ministries. I think it’s a message we all needed to hear.”
Bishop Bryant’s message is a timely reminder to all of us involved in Christian education that it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of teaching and learning, and forget our ultimate purpose, to Unify, Learn and Serve by training Christian leaders for a changing church and a changing world.
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