AMEC Publishing House and Payne Theological Seminary Sponsor a Writing Workshop
The Rev. Dr. Priscilla Boswell, Carlene L. Douglas, and the Rev. Tashara Void
A recent Writing Workshop in Nashville convened an ecumenical group of clergy and laypersons from around the country bound by their love for writing and their common faith in Jesus Christ. The purpose of the three-day workshop, co-sponsored by the AME Church Publishing House and Payne Theological Seminary, was to bring together persons who have an interest in creating liturgical resources for future publication. The Workshop was held at the Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, an ideal setting for worship, serenity, creativity, and learning.
The Workshop was the initiative of the Rev. Roderick Belin, President and Publisher of the AMEC Publishing House and co-convener, the Rev. Dr. Michael Brown, President of Payne Theological Seminary. It presented renowned professors, scholars, and leaders in the persons of the Rev. Kyle E. Brooks, Ph.D. candidate, Vanderbilt Divinity School; the Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown, Bandy Professor of Preaching, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, and Historiographer/Executive Director of the Department of Research and Scholarship of the AME Church; the Rev. Dr. Safiya Fosua, Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University; the Rev. Garland F. Pierce, Executive Director of the Department of Christian Education of the AME Church, and the Rev. Dr. Renita J. Weems, Vice-President, Academic Dean, and Professor of Biblical Studies at American Baptist College in Nashville.
After registration and dinner, the Workshop began with an opening worship service where Dr. Weems commended the Rev. Belin for his initiative and understanding of “the imperativeness of the times…and the history of African Methodism” that required a gathering of writers. Dr. Weems opened her sermon, based on Habakkuk 2:1-3, by reminding attendees of the importance of being part of the conversation through writing. Featured musical renditions were offered from the Voices of Deliverance Choir of Nashville’s Lee Chapel AME Church. After worship, attendees gathered for an orientation session and the first writing exercise.
Nestled around the second-floor foyer were several prayer stations designed by Kairos Community AME Church member Ms. Charlene Ugwu, which provided space for prayer, respite, inspiration, and healing. The stations creatively reflected spaces for pause, spiritual and mental preparation, and a calming reminder of the peace of God in our midst.
The second day began with breakfast and worship followed by a plenary session led by Dr. Fosua. The session was titled, “Who is that Writer Inside You: Finding that Voice.” Fosua commended the AME Church for its ongoing quest to represent the voices of the people from the pulpit but suggested that the truth coming from those voices in the pews should also be recorded in the Church’s liturgy, which is welcoming and inclusive.
Post lunch, the Workshop made a swift transition to Session 1, “Building Blocks of Worship” led by the Rev. Belin. During the first part of the session, the Rev. Belin suggested that writers should be intentional about what they write, particularly in writing liturgical materials and that what is written should bear relevance and compatibility to common sensibilities among readers. The Rev. Garland Pierce led the next session on Devotional Writing, encouraging the group to go GLOCAL in their reading, meaning that writers should read deeply and widely both globally and locally. Detroit native, the Rev. Kyle E. Brooks, a Ph.D. candidate at Vanderbilt Divinity School, preached the evening service with a sermon titled, “It’s a Group Thing,” based on Acts 2. The Inspirational Choir of Payne Chapel AME Church in Nashville ministered in song during the service.
The final day’s plenary was titled, “Voice of the People and the Voice of the Preacher.” Dr. Teresa Fry Brown strongly suggested reading and watching in order to foster creative writing. The emphasis was also placed on writing in ways that reflected personal style and individuality. The class partnered in dyads in an exercise of reading Revelation 21:1-5 aloud to each other in order to demonstrate the importance of strong voice projection on the part of the reader in a worship service, stressing that the voice of the reader is as important as the voice of the preacher.
This Writing Workshop had an all-round richness of intellect and a sustained air of excitement. The amplitude of the facilitators’ knowledge, along with the zealous, unselfish ways in which they shared them with attendees was the perfect environment for learning. This opened up mature, liberating, and provocative discussions leading to the identification of creative and spirit-filled writers within and without the sessions. We left the Workshop encouraged and empowered to keep the work of writing going onward, upward, and forward in the power and authority of the God who gives rich life and strong existence to those who languish.