One of the many joys I have in working at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh is the interactions I have with brothers and sisters in the African American community. From such things as hosting Geneva College's Center for Urban Biblical Ministry in our building, having students training for pastoral or lay ministry from urban churches in Pittsburgh, listening to local pastors and students preach in chapel, visiting congregations, and learning more from friends about the challenges of living and ministering in the inner city, my life is greatly enriched as a result of seeing the kingdom of God more fully.
As many honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today, we can rejoice over the progress that has been made in racial equality even as we mourn over remaining prejudices and divisions. In the church, we must not be driven by worldly ideologies or political causes in addressing matters of justice, but by the theology of the gospel of the kingdom of God. We are to recognize that walls of racial division have been broken down by the Lord who reigns over all nations and peoples. Consequently, we must labor diligently in prayer and good works to show a love that conquers hostilities. Humbly like Christ, we must do nothing from empty conceit but regard others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4). To accomplish these things, we have to take steps.
As I read again MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech today, I noted he mentioned the place where I live and work. As his rhetoric soared calling for freedom to ring from various places in our land, he said, "Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania." With tragic shootings and protests in our recent history, at times feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can pervade your thinking. To walk by faith in this regard, here are three significant steps we are taking or want to take at RPTS to encourage further the ringing of gospel freedom here in the Alleghenies.
A free seminar, A Candle Against the Dark: A Historical Presentation of the Anti-Slavery Movement in America, will be presented by Dr. Robert Copeland on Friday, February 1, from 6 to 9 PM, continuing Saturday, February 2, from 9 AM to noon at RPTS. Special attention will be given to the Underground Railroad movement in Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as the involvement of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Dr. Copeland is a ruling elder at College Hill RP Church in Beaver Falls, PA, and is Professor Emeritus of Music at Geneva College. He has done extensive research and writing on Reformed Presbyterian history. Hearing and learning from our history is so important in this matter. You can contact us at (412) 731-6000 for more details.
To better encourage understanding among our students, a local African American pastor, Will Baker, will offer a lecture then discussion about racial harmony during the month of February. We have found these types of conversations help students see blind spots, deepen respect and friendships among them, and lead to further ministry opportunities in the community.
Finally, as RPTS President I have a wonderful opportunity at the moment. We are exploring adding to our team full time here a person in the African American community who would help us make further inroads into student recruitment, church relationships, and a better understanding of urban ministry. But I need help financially to do so. If you would be interested in helping in this regard, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at the number above to arrange a time to discuss this with me.
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