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Black Lives Matter, Part #2

Rev. William Freeman, BAA Parliamentarian

In my first article on this subject, I talked about how it was back in 1965 – some fifty-one (51) years ago.  In the last paragraph of that article I stated that, “I pray it will not take another Selma or Bloody Sunday to galvanize this country into living up to its creed that ALL men and women are created equal.”

Well, sad to say, recent events in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Charlotte, North Carolina and El Cajon, California are vivid reminders that racism is still alive and well in America.  Recently, it is being reported that more whites than blacks are shot by cops, and that may be true, as there are more whites than blacks in this country.  However, the uproar in the streets is because most of the black men who are shot are unarmed.  And, the question is, how long will this go on?

It seems that a major problem is that many of the police officers, male and female, are scared of Black men and even Black children.  How old was Tamir Rice?  Who was the cop in the helicopter who said Mr. Cruther, “looked like a bad dude!”  I ask, “What does a ‘bad dude’ look like from a helicopter high up in the air?”

Lastly, a few police officers have come right out and said, “I was afraid” or “I feared for my life.”  They know those are code words that will get them off or cleared of indictment.  Fear does not justify poor police tactics.

Gems for Your Journey:  Sound the Alarm, Blow the Trumpet, Heal the Land

Rev. Veronica Martin Thomas, Chaplain

We are living in turbulent times BUT don’t be discouraged.  God has placed the solution to our country’s woes in the laps of those who acknowledge Him.  God’s strategy for change is declared:  If my people, which area called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (II Chronicle 7:14 KJV).

The Call from the God of “All Grace” for His people to obey is:

  • Humble ourselves (Humility)
  • Pray, seek God’s face (Prayer of Repentance)
  • Turn from our wicked ways (which proclaims the manner of True Repentance)

The God of “All Grace” will answer earnest prayers and obedience:

  • God will let us hear from heaven (when His call is answered)
  • God will forgive our sins (our unrighteousness)
  • God will hear our land (our Nation)

This is God’s prescription for spiritual sickness.  Let us respond to the Word of God.  Amen.

Jason Callahan, Former BAA Moderator Rises Up

Congratulations to Jason Callahan on his permanent assignment to the position of Instructor/Palliative Care Chaplain in the School of Allied Health Professions at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has also attained certification by the Board of the Association of Professional Chaplains.

BAA board members join in celebrating Jason’s achievements. A valiant servant in BAA, Jason was the student assistant who gave the leadership in BAA’s formation.  He became a charter member and was elected as its second moderator.

Empowering Women to Rise

By Rev. Dr. Patricia Turner-Olds

Selected women of Faith Community Church are rising!  More than a dozen years ago, Rev. Patricia Gould-Champ, pastor of the church, founded Women R.I.S.E. (Respect, Integrity, Success, Empowerment).  The goal and mission of R.I.S.E. are effectuated through the content of modules of each of the four components led by volunteer facilitators and workshop presenters.  Sacred space is created for women to engage in honest and intimate dialogue:  sharing of life challenges, faith formation and spiritual development and practical skills for building self-esteem, financial management confronting life struggles, conflicts and trials.  These experiences serve to enhance self-respect, foster integrity, support personal success and empower them with resilience.

It has been my delight to be one among the educators, ministers of the gospel and other helping professionals who shared their skills and talents with these women.  Each year I have attended the Women R.I.S.E. graduation exercise.  Listening to the two-minute speeches of the nine graduates this fall impacted me more this year than in years past.  I listened and watched nine beautiful women share, with confidence, well-articulated reflections about their R.I.S.E. experiences and journeys.  Not only did we celebrate every one of their presentations, but I was particularly and joyfully overwhelmed and tearful to hear each of them express how much the two workshops that I facilitated – masking and self-esteem – had impacted their being, enhanced their personhood and made a difference in their lives mentally and spiritually.  I am happy to have had a role in empowering these women to rise to another plateau as leading women today.  My prayer is always, “may the work that I do speak for me,” as I seek to do as Dr. Katie Cannon advises, “tell the Great Story, live the Great Story for Thine is the kingdom, power and glory!”

Start with Good News: Rediscovering the Why of Evangelism

We’re excited to be hosting  “Start with Good News: Rediscovering the Why of Evangelism” at Union Presbyterian Seminary, September 27-29, on our Richmond campus, and lived streamed to our Charlotte campus.

This three-day conference will help re-educate ourselves on how to talk about the gospel and why it matters in the world, a fitting topic in our changing church.  “Start with Good News” will provide leadership and information relevant to church members of all denominations, sizes, and viewpoints.

However, the registration deadline is September 20! We don’t want you to miss this unique opportunity to be in conversation on the topic of evangelism in the 21st century.

Led by UPSem Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism John Vest, the conference will feature four key leaders in the field of post-modern evangelism: Nikki MacMillan (M.Div.’99), stated clerk and mission coordinator for the Cherokee Presbytery; Roger Ross, senior pastor for First United Methodist Church in Springfield, Illinois; Anthony Smith, teaching pastor at Mission House in Salisbury, North Carolina; and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author and speaker.

Richmond campus housing is full, but the SpringHill Suites in Glen Allen is offering a special rate of $83 per night for this conference.

For those in the Charlotte area, we are live-streaming the conference to the Charlotte campus of UPSem, at 5141 Sharon Road.  You will participate fully through the live feed in plenaries and worship, and for small group time, you’ll meet together in groups just as we are doing in Richmond.  Cost is the same, and lunches will be served.

The cost of $25 per person (max of $100 per church) for the entire conference, including two lunches, is so low due to the generous support of our partners, the Presbytery of Charlotte, Presbytery of the James, and the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic.

Please consider getting a group from your church together to attend, or just come by yourself.  Registration will close on September 20, so don’t miss your chance to be part of this exciting and timely conference.

Click here
for biographical sketches of the leaders.

Click here for a schedule of the conference.

Click here to register for Start with Good News:  Rediscovering the Why of Evangelism

Sweet potatoes, BBQ Church, Convocation kick off fall term

Sholom Farms_26
Service Day at Shalom Farms

We welcomed new and returning students to the Richmond campus for the fall term with a Service Day on a farm to benefit low-income Richmond communities. Nearly 30 students were joined by seminary staff at Shalom Farms to pick several bushels of sweet potatoes and sort them for distribution to after-school programs, food banks, and community kitchens.

Relay games on the quad

Earlier in the week, students were treated to a picnic and relay games on the quad that tested their coordination and athletic skills. The Joyful Feast sponsored a special edition of BBQ Church inside Lake Chapel, where they celebrated worship and a meal in a wonderfully hospitable way.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism leads BBQ Church

After classes began, we paused midweek to celebrate our 205th Opening Convocation. Professor of Preaching and Worship Richard Voelz, our newest faculty member, presented “#ForTheSakeOf” inspired by Psalm 122.  

Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship Richard Voelz

In response to the sermon, congregation members were invited to live tweet using the sermon title as the hashtag.


Director for Alumni Development Clay Macaulay (D.Min.’85) presided at the communion table. Students, staff and faculty joined together in a litany to commit themselves to their academic and professional work throughout the 2016-2017 year.  The service was followed by a community photo shoot and lunch in Lake Chapel.

Opening Convocation procession

We look forward to the year ahead!

Union Named Seminary that Changes the World


RICHMOND, VA (September 16, 2016) Union Presbyterian Seminary has been recognized as a Seminary that Changes the World, Class of 2016-17 by The Center for Faith and Service. Each year, Seminaries that Change the World identifies a select group of seminaries and divinity schools offering innovative courses, programs, and opportunities for students seeking to engage in social justice and service work while in seminary. UPSem’s recognition reflects the ongoing work the school is doing to prepare future faith leaders.

“We are pleased that the many efforts of our students, staff, and faculty, and indeed the work of the institution itself, have been recognized as we respond to God’s call to engage in and participate with the transforming work of God’s Reign in our world,” said UPSem President Brian K. Blount. “Our commitment to serving God in this way neither begins nor ends with this wonderful recognition, but we are delighted to be counted among such wonderful company.” 

UPSem’s engagement with and for the world spans a variety of programs, partnerships, and courses. The seminary is engaged with the local community as an institutional partner with Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities (RISC), an initiative that brings congregations and leaders together to address root causes of injustice in the greater Richmond area. 

In the coming year, UPSem will begin a partnership with Shalom Farms which promises to create one of the largest Urban Farms in Virginia. The collaboration will help to provide food for people in food deserts in Richmond, teach basic gardening, and address theological issues around ecology and stewardship.

UPSem also has initiated a new set of course requirements designated “The Church in the World,” which includes specialized topics of study on evangelism, interfaith relations and community engagement. Course offerings include Wealth and Poverty in the Bible, Intercultural Religious Education, Sex, Money; and Politics in the Ancient Church, Urban Ministry: Surviving and Thriving.

A partnership between UPSem and The Presbytery of the James has brought Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism John Vest to teach academic courses in evangelism, offer training to local congregations, and begin a new spiritual formation platform called The Joyful Feast which seeks to engage those on the edge of the religious community. 

Katie Geneva Cannon, Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Ethics, recently received Union Theological Seminary of New York‘s Union Medal at the 178th Commencement. That seminary’s highest award honors persons of faith whose lives reflect the mission of the seminary in the world. Cannon focuses her work in the areas of Christian ethics, womanist theology, and women in religion and society. Cannon was the first African American woman ordained in the PC (USA). 

The list of Seminaries that Change the World is published by The Center for Faith and Service, an organization that works to help seminaries, service programs, denominations and local congregations connect faith with service and social justice work. Reflecting on this year’s list, Wayne Meisel, Executive Director of The Center for Faith and Service, said “Anyone seeking to change the world ought to at least consider seminary or divinity school as an option to grow personally in one’s faith and to inspire, sustain and deepen his or her commitment to neighbor, community, country and the world. Through their commitment to collaborate, this diverse group of schools named on this year’s list of Seminaries that Change the World embody the best of faithful and justice-seeking communities.”

For more information about Seminaries that Change the World, visit

Remembering T. Hartley Hall, fifth president of UPSem


President Emeritus T. Hartley Hall IV (M.Div.’57) died Thursday, August 18 in Asheville, North Carolina. Dr. Hall served as the fifth president of Union Presbyterian Seminary (then Union Theological Seminary) from 1981-1994.

“Hartley Hall’s contributions to church, country, and theological education are significant and enduring,” said current Union Presbyterian Seminary President Brian K. Blount.  “He was a uniquely gifted leader who made a lasting impression on everyone who had the chance to know him. He will be remembered fondly and gratefully throughout the family of Union Presbyterian Seminary.”

Hall was a native of Macon, Georgia. He entered Davidson College in 1947, where he served as an ROTC commanding officer and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and the Omicron Delta Kappa leadership fraternity. He graduated from Davidson cum laude in 1951.

Shortly after, Hall served in the U.S. Army from 1951-1953 where he received a battlefield promotion to first lieutenant in Korea. He served as company commander and headquarters commandant of the 32nd Infantry Regiment and was decorated with the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster.

In 1954, Hall entered Union Theological Seminary as a student. He graduated cum laude in 1957 with the Bachelor of Divinity degree. Ordained by East Hanover Presbytery in 1957, he graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1958 with the Master of Sacred Theology degree in New Testament Studies. While at Yale he served as assistant pastor of First Congregational Church, Branford, Connecticut, and later as interim pastor.

Hall has served as a campus Christian life minister in Raleigh, North Carolina; as Presbyterian chaplain at North Carolina State University; pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Lenoir, North Carolina; and pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Tyler, Texas. Prior to assuming the presidency at Union, he served as the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee, from 1973-1981.

He is survived by his four children and  their grandchildren.

Services to celebrate the life of T. Hartley Hall, IV will be held on Saturday, August 27 at 2 pm at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, 789 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804.

Dr. Balentine’s book awarded for outstanding title


Director of Graduate Studies and Professor of Old Testament Samuel Balentine’s latest book “Have You Considered My Servant Job? Understanding the Biblical Archetype of Patience” (University of South Carolina Press, 2015) has been selected by Choice as an “Outstanding Academic Title for 2015.”

Every year, Choice subject editors single out for recognition the most significant print and electronic works reviewed in Choice during the previous calendar year. This prestigious list of publications reflects the best in scholarly titles and attracts extraordinary attention from the academic library community.