By Pat McCaughan
Episcopal News Service
The 53rd annual conference of the Union of Black Episcopalians this year will include “a fresh wave of divine love, guidance and power,” in the form of a good old-fashioned revival, and everyone’s invited.
The online churchwide “Lift Every Voice and Sing” gathering July 27-30 will feature 7 p.m. EDT nightly spirited worship; daily noon plenary sessions examining systemic racism, inclusion, and challenges to voting and civil rights; a celebration of the late Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, The Episcopal Church’s first woman bishop; and a commemoration of the 40th publishing anniversary of the African American hymnal whose title is echoed in the revival’s name. It will also memorialize the disproportionate number of African Americans who died from COVID-19.
“Revival has always played an important part in our relationship with God,” said the Very Rev. Kim Coleman, UBE national president. “From the days of Ezekiel when God asked, ‘Can these dry bones live?’ to a frightened, disheartened band of disciples locked away in an upper room, people of faith have hungered for a fresh outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit and a renewal in mission, purpose and identity.”
Coleman and others, including UBE Second Vice President Ayesha Mutope-Johnson, said that the isolation and disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with racially motivated police violence and systemic racism, have created a need for revival.
“The idea is to look at our struggles of today, lament if we want, but consider the strength we have brought into today and that will take us into tomorrow with hope and joy,” Mutope-Johnson said.
Black Episcopalians “have been a gift to The Episcopal Church from the church’s early beginnings,” Coleman added. “This is an opportunity for the wider church to glimpse how people of color live into the faith and worship traditions we all hold dear.”
The revival is a partnership between UBE and the church’s evangelism team, said the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation care, in a letter to UBE members.