The Conference for People of African Descent, Friends, and Advocates is one of the landmark conferences of the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC). Expressly rooted in the African-American cultural experience, the conference provides a space for people of African descent, friends and advocates to come together for a time of celebration, skill-building, strategizing, leadership development, and programming. Our theme this year is “Grounded In Love.”
I’ve been searching the historical archives of my mind to recall the very first MCC PAD Conference I attended.
In the forty plus years MCC has been ministering to the needs of the LGBTQQUI community (and our allies), the identity of this intentional ministry to people of color, beginning in 1975, has evolved. Initially established as the Task Force on Racism, it finally became the Conference for People of African Descent (PAD), Friends and Advocates.
Although the name of this ministry has changed over time, the purpose, focus of the ministry and the conference has remained the same: to create space where Blackness is unapologetically centered and people of African descent, friends and advocates are encouraged, equipped and empowered to respectfully engage in ministry within a racially-diverse, mutually-respected community of faith, and doing so in ways that honor the particular gifts, skills, experiences and lives of people of African descent. How grateful I remain to this day for attending my first PAD Conference years ago! Let me explain why.
When I first came to MCC some thirty years ago, I entered a church community where there were very few people that looked like me. It was a new and very different experience for me. As a child of the African-American Baptist Church tradition, the expectations (created by me, I’m sure) I had about what it meant to be “church” were challenged on many levels.
On the one hand, that was a good thing; my life and worldview was turned upside down, changed and transformed in ways that only could have occurred in MCC.
On the other hand, however, I still had a deep longing to be in “spiritual community” with “my” folk.
I missed the connections. I missed the experience of Black worship. I missed being in the presence of the ancestors who, rooted in faith, help pave the way for the next generation. I missed celebrating, fellowshipping with and learning from people like me. The good news is God knew what I was looking for and needed. Through an announcement (much like this blog) and subsequent invitation, I learned MCC actually sponsored a conference by and for people of color. I knew I had to attend this conference...and I’m so glad I did!
My first PAD Conference was a phenomenal experience. From worship, to the workshops, to the fellowship, all the way to just “being” with folk like me was like coming home. Refreshing, renewing, challenging and invigorating were among the many feelings I took away from that first conference. I firmly believe responding to that church announcement was a step that changed my life and still does. This is why I’ll be attending the conference this year in St. Louis.
For me, the MCC People of African Descent Conference is the gathering where I’m reminded there is a place for me, for people of African descent in Metropolitan Community Churches and for those that love and support us.
It is at this gathering where I am reminded:
“We’ve come this far by faith” and we’re still “leaning on the Lord;”
We are standing on the shoulders of other people of African descent who came before us, blazing trails, opening doors, exercising their voices to be heard and recognized as fully embraced, celebrated, and included members of the Body of Christ, and;
All of us are reminded that we are here for such a time as this and ours is a multi-faceted calling to be grounded in love and to live with an unapologetic holy boldness, honoring who we are, where we have come from and freeing us to become who God is call us to be.
The PAD Conference was pivotal in my ongoing journey of liberation and transformation.
I invite you to join me at the PAD Conference in St. Louis where we will explore what it means to “transform ourselves as we transform the world,” breathing new and renewed life into what it means to be authentically our truest self and who God is calling us to be.
There’s room at God’s table. All are welcome!
The 2017 MCC Conference for People of African Descent, Friends, and Advocates is August 3-5, 2017, in St. Louis, Missouri. Click here to see the schedule, including speakers and preachers.