Category Archives: Alumni

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!”

Follow the Pathways to Learning and Leadership


Dear Friends,

Mark your calendars! In September, we will launch a new program of online and hybrid courses that will help meet the educational requirements toward leading a congregation as a Commissioned Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Our Leadership Institute is proud to offer these five-week courses which will be taught by our world-class faculty and experienced practitioners. The first course, Biblical Interpretation, led by Dr. E. Carson Brisson, begins online on Tuesday, September 6, 2016.

The Pathways to Learning and Leadership program is also available to church members seeking to increase their knowledge and discipleship.

Click here to learn more and register.

With you on the path to learning and leadership,

Marilyn Johns (M.A.C.E.’94)
Director of Program Development
The Leadership Institute at Union Presbyterian Seminary

Board Member Jonyrma Singleton in the Church Triumphant

By Helen Bessent Byrd (M.Div. ’07)

In early June, President Brian Blount shared the sad news of the death of Reverend Jonyrma Singleton of Shaker Heights, Ohio with the seminary community.  Born on December 3,1948 in Savannah, Georgia, Jonyrma an alumna (M.Div. ’88), like me credited her life experiences at Boggs Academy, a now-closed Presbyterian boarding school in Georgia, for helping her parents to shape her academic and Christian education.  Among the other institutions of higher education that she attended are Talladega College and Jacksonville State University.

Rev. Singleton transitioned into the church triumphant on June 10, 2016.  Jonyrma was the mother of two girls and grandmother of six children.  She served as campus minister and director of admissions at Barber-Scotia College as well as an associate pastor and interim pastor before arriving at in 1992 at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, Ohio where she served as associate pastor until retirement in 2014.  A former trustee of the seminary, she served as secretary and a member of the executive committee.  Rev. Singleton received the Trailblazer Award from our BAA in 2015.  We join in thanking God for the gift of her life and the ways she blessed the lives of those who experienced her teaching, preaching and healing.

Professor Richelle B. White Authors New Book

By Helen Bessent Byrd (M.Div. ’07)

Dr. White, Associate Professor of Youth Ministries and the first African American tenured faculty member at Kuyper College in Lansing, Michigan has written a new book entitled, “Repertory with Roots – Black Youth, Black History, Black Culture, Black Music and the Bible,” (Xulon Press, 9.781498476645, $18.49).  White, whose expertise is in reaching and teaching youth and young adults, wrote this curriculum guide that offers a curricular framework to help black youth to grow in wisdom and Christian discipleship.  It is designed to foster their identity formation as unashamedly black and their faith formation as unapologetically Christian.

White, a former teacher, has hands-on experience in youth ministry.  She earned a Master of Divinity at Wesley Theological Seminary, a Master of Arts in Christian Education (2003) from Union-PSCE and a Ph.D. from Union Presbyterian Seminary.  Other books by her include, “Daughters of Imani:  Christian Rites of Passage for African American Young Women,” a guide for a comprehensive mentoring and rites of passage program for African American girls.  She also co-authored, “Daughters of Imani Bible Study for Young Women.”

Stewardship Begins in the Heart

By Helen Bessent Byrd (M.Div. ’07)

Stewardship emanates from a commitment to God who owns the earth and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1).  As recipients of God’s favor, we enjoy the bounty of the earth.  In response, as children of God, it is incumbent upon us to manage well the resources that God has made available to us and to faithfully share these treasures with others.  Jesus, said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person brings good things out of a good treasure (Matt. 12:34b-35a NRSV).  As good stewards, members of the Black Alumni Association share our bounty by giving our time, talent, and financial treasures to aid our alma mater in its core mission, “to participate in the mission of the church by forming and equipping leaders for the work of ministry.”

Black Lives Matter! Selma!

By William R. Freeman (M.Div. ’01)

Back in 1965, most people had never heard of this small town in southern Alabama.  Selma was just another place where Jim Crow was the way of life and a racist man named Jim Clark was the sheriff. I was a young man of 26 born in the even smaller Alabama town of Standing Rock who, at the age of 8, had moved to Harlem, New York City.

As a member of a very active church, and being from Alabama, Dr. King was one of my heroes, and I tried to stay abreast of what was going on back in my home state.  One reason was because of the relatives who still lived there then, and some of whom continue live in Alabama; many of them had been “down so long” they were brainwashed into questioning the work of SCLC, SNC and even Dr. King.  They would say things like, “It’s just the way things are.”

Now, things in 1965 were totally different from 2016.  In 1965 national news was broadcast on three stations CBS, NBC and ABC, and for only one-half hour each evening.  There were no cable networks; no cell phones, and of course, no smart phones or tablets.  However, our Young Adult group made sure we kept up on the movement and I know Bloody Sunday woke up the Sleeping Giants around the country and the world.

Lastly, today, as we watch the dismantling of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, I pray that 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.

Gems for your Journey: Strength for the Task

By Veronica Martin Thomas (M.Div. ’07)

The theme for this year’s Black Alumni Association Trailblazer Award was, “Strength for the Task.”  The New Testament foundation Scripture was I Peter 5:6-10 with emphasis on verse 10.  This verse assures us that after we have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace will determine what is a, “little while.”  You do know that suffering is a part of our Christian walk.  Psalm 34:19 states:  “many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”  I believe the translation that says, “the Lord delivers him out of “each one,” accentuates God’s intervention on behalf of each individual.  God of all grace is concerned about each one of our afflictions.  God of all grace will not send anyone else to rescue His children from suffering.   God of all grace will come himself to restore us.  God of all grace will mend our broken lives and make us whole.  God of all grace will support us, make us whole and support us making our way stable despite the instability we feel living in a world that inflicts suffering upon us. God of all grace will strengthen us giving us the ability to succeed in all that we do for Him.  God of all grace will establish us, building in us a firm foundation that will make up steadfast and immovable when facing attacks of our enemies.

Just remember that the God of all grace who made all flesh knows that nothing is too difficult for him.  This same God is in control of all things both in this world and throughout eternity.  Let us respond to the Word of God, “Amen.  So be it!”