The Rev. Paul T. Roberts, Pastor of Church of the Master Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA and chair of the Alumni Association for Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary opened the 141st Founder's Day Conference today at New Life Presbyterian Church in Atlanta with a story and a song. Roberts welcomed the gathered group and celebrated the over 150% attendance growth from the previous year. Roberts, a key organizer of the event shared how he received communications leading up to Founder's Day from alums saying how proud they were that "Johnson C. Smith is my seminary." This year's event is different: it is a time of sharing and equipping. Three plenary workshops were held today and worship will be later this evening. Each time different alumna and alumni are the leaders and more is to come tomorrow and Wednesday when the Founder's Day Convocation will take place. There is a renewed sense of ownership of the seminary taking place that models something for all of us in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Certainly, Johnson C. Smith is the seminary of a large number of African-American PC(USA) pastors, probably the majority in the PC(USA). But it is also a seminary of the PC(USA)... our seminary, too! One we all can be proud to support. Supporting the leaders on the Board of Trustees for the seminary, the Interim Dean, the Rev. Dr. Mark Lomax, and the Alumni Association with our prayers and our friendship in Christ are critical.
Dr. Lomax briefly addressed the assembled and shared a message from Jeremiah 32 where the prophet is asked by God to go and buy a field in Anathoth, in a perceivably foolish place to purchase land at a clearly difficult time. Ownership, partnership, relationship, leadership, identity, and contextual ministry and praxis were all key concepts in the morning and afternoon presentations by alums the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Pastor of Liberation Community Presbyterian Church, Memphis, TN; the Rev. Warren LeSane, Associate Presbyter for Church Development for the Presbytery of Charlotte; and the Rev. Dr. SanDawna Ashley, Pastor of Community Presbyterian Church, New Castle, DE.
There is more to come this evening with the Rev. Dr. Larry Hill, Pastor of Woodland Presbyterian Church, Paw Creek, NC preaching. Tuesday and Wednesday are also filled with workshops and celebrations.
Lee in Atlanta, GA.