Sacred Safe Spaces

Rev. Estelle David Called as New Sacred Safe Spaces Coordinator

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In 2012, ABCNJ introduced Sacred Safe Spaces, a pioneering ministry focusing on the ministry churches could offer to women and children who were victims of domestic violence. Created by Rev. Tamara R. Jackson, and initially funded by a generous grant from the American Baptist Women’s Ministries, Sacred Safe Spaces provides educational workshops and encourages churches to adopt the ABCNJ Congregation Covenant of Nonviolence. To date, some 20 churches have approved the covenant – and these churches will be recognized at a special ceremony at the 2016 Annual Session on Saturday, September 24, 2016. Rev. Jackson has served the region faithfully since the inception of Sacred Safe Spaces and our churches have been blessed by her inspirational leadership and creative advocacy on behalf of women and children. However, she has accepted the call as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Syracuse in New York. Of course, we all wish her well in her new ministry! She says, “Over the last three years it has been my pleasure serving as the Coordinator for ABCNJ’s Sacred Safe Spaces Initiative. Violence remains pervasive in our world, society and places of worship. Indeed there is still much work to be done.”

We agree, and therefore we are pleased to announce that at its May 14, 2016 meeting, the ABCNJ Council affirmed the appointment of Rev. Estelle V. David as the new ABCNJ OPEN Pastor for the Sacred Safe Spaces ministry.

Rev. David proclaims, “I am a friend of God.” She is an advocate of building the Beloved Community which is characterized by people who have mutual respect, truth, justice and harmony embracing their diversity for the greater good. The needs of the community have always been a passion of hers and she has worked as a community builder in many sectors - grassroots, public, private and faith-based community corporations. After 14 years as Prison Chaplain at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women (EMCFW), December 31, 2015, she retired. Rev. David believes that the role of the church is to honor each of God’s creations so that we can use our gifts, strengths, perceptions and complexities to be our best, growing in peace and glorifying God!

Has your congregation endorsed the ABCNJ Congregation Covenant of Nonviolence? You can copy and personalize the covenant from our web-site. If your church endorses, this covenant, please send the region office a signed copy!

Meeting the Governor

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An inclusive interfaith coalition of New Jersey's religious leaders had an opportunity to meet with Governor Chris Christie on Tuesday, December 3, 2013.  ABCNJ's Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor, Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, participated in the discussion. A number of very important issues were addressed by Governor Christie: gun control, education, health care, and the challenges surrounding hosting the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl?  Yes, because it will be held on February 2, 2014 at MetLife Stadium.  The interfaith coalition is concerned that major sporting events such as the Super Bowl attract large numbers of sex workers, many of whom are victims of the scandalous international sex slave trade.

2013-12-03 Christie Meeting 3The Governor recounted his experiences in prosecuting sex slave ring leaders when he served as United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, before becoming Governor (2002-2008).  He noted that when trafficked women are rescued by law authorities, they manifest many symptoms of severe psychological abuse that makes it difficult for them to trust even their rescuers.  Governor Christie called upon the religious community to minister to these victims, because the love and care we show comes without any demands upon them.

I would like to remind all of our churches that our ABCNJ Council approved a resolution in January 2013 calling for our churches to join the global anti-trafficking movement.

We also launched the "Sacred Safe Spaces" covenant movement so that each of our churches could commit themselves to providing a safe spiritual environment for people who have suffered abuse.  About 25 churches have already signed the Covenant.

If you would like copies of the Anti-Trafficking Resolution or Sacred Safe Spaces Covenant, contact the region office.  Rev. Tamara Davis serves as the region's Sacred Safe Spaces Consultant, and she would be happy to visit your church and share.  Her dramatic presentation at the 2013 Annual Session was one of the most moving parts of our gathering.

 

 

My God!

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Note: Originally written Monday April 2nd 2012 following Palm Sunday when I preached at First Baptist S. Plainfield to become Interim Pastor

It is not enemies who taunt me— I could bear that; it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me— I could hide from them. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng. -Psalm 55:12-14 NRSV
Yesterday, Palm Sunday morning, as I sat in the pulpit preparing to preach we reached the point in the service for intercessory prayer. I was taken aback by one of the requests. In reading the prayer slip aloud I was reminded of the violations that continue to go on in houses around the world every day. Prayer was being asked for a family whose wife was killed by her husband. It is no secret that I have done and do a lot of work in the field of Violence Against Women and Children, especially in the church. However, I must admit I was not expecting this, in fact before reading it aloud, I whispered, “My God!”

In reflecting on this now I cannot help wondering how many victims of Intimate Partner Violence (inclusive of domestic violence and sexual assault) have murmured these same words, “My God!” I contemplate deeply, if as they were placed on these crosses of despair if like Christ, they asked why they were forsaken? Or how many times they prayed for “this cup” to pass from them? These are relevant questions for any victim or survivor of violence. Yet, as my mind pondered longer, deeper on this issue I was led to Psalm 55:12-14. The betrayal is not by God, it is not the Lord who puts victims/survivors on the cross but those who profess to love them! Husbands, boyfriends, wives, girlfriends, (yes I acknowledge, women too abuse), kinfolk, and I can never forget society with its laws, policies - us with our silence!

Yes, this truth reawakened me the first day of April, and unfortunately it was not a cruel joke, no one screamed “April Fools,” sadly it was a family’s reality. She sleeps eternally not by the hand of an enemy or adversary, but by the hand of “[her] equal, [her] companion, [her] familiar friend, with whom [she] kept pleasant company; who [together they] walked in the house of God with the throng.” So for Mrs. Lo and all the others I submit this simple prayer:

Loving and merciful God teach us your children to love like you do. Transform us again into your image. The image that once made you proudly say, we, your creation are “very good.” Please hold every soul that is hemorrhaging from victimization letting them know as virtue has left their bodies from the pain, it has left yours also. Never are they forgotten or forsaken! May they come to know your touch, that healing touch that can stop the bleeding. You say in your Word that while we walk through the valleys and shadows of death we shall to fear no evil, yet Lord I voice the fear, the fear birthed from the possibility of death brought on not by strangers or adversaries but those we love. You also say in your Word that you will restore our souls. So, Precious God I ask that the souls of every victim/survivor be restored in you, through you and by you! I ask Precious God that you cradle the souls of families who have lost loved ones to violence and that along with us you shed tears for the silenced souls – those who have succumb to violence as you did for Lazarus, letting them know for every tear they cried you wept also. Those who are gone are not forgotten, death has not won, you will remove the stone and although they now sleep, they shall be resurrected. Lastly, Lord I pray over for those who abuse, although it is hard, you command us to pray for our enemies. May you restore their souls by your Word. Humble them to acknowledge their wrongs, restore them to know love through you, aid them in truly understanding love is kind, patient, not jealous… aid them in grasping that no one ever hated their own body, but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church. This is how we are to treat one another, love as we love ourselves, care for others as we care for our own bodies. Help us all Mighty God to feed and care for each other the way you do the church. Yes, restore us Lord to your likeness, restore us to know how to love in healthy ways, help us to foster healing to the broken and to extend grace as grace it has been extended to us.

In Your Precious Name, Amen.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

If you or someone you know needs help please do not hesitate to contact me via email using the form below or at the region office (609) 587-8700. If you are in immediate danger please call the Police. If you are uncomfortable being identified please use any other these 24 HOUR numbers for help, they will connect you to assistance in your area. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or The National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Email Rev. Davis

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Above photo is by Justin Henry (http://www.flickr.com/photos/72794895@N00/1547734576), photo used by permission via Creative Commons.

ABCNJ Youth Encouraged to Become Agents for Jesus

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ABCNJ’s Senior High youth conference was held on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at Camp Lebanon.  Sixty five youth and youth leaders from the region gathered to share and reflect on the theme “Special Agents for Jesus Christ: Preparing Youth for Service" based on Ephesians 1:1-4.  The day was filled with praise and worship, speakers, panel and small group discussions. Rev. Erin Phillips, Associate Regional Pastor, welcomed the group and shared the region’s excitement about involving the youth in varies ways throughout the region. Rev. Marella Holmes, Associate Regional Pastor for Youth Ministry, shared a motivating and inspiring word from God. She challenged to youth to accept their assignment from Jesus Christ as an agent to serve the people of God.

2013-04-27 YM 3Four youth from Mount Zion Baptist Church in Newark led the panel discussion about their experience at IMMERSE 2012 conference. They spoke about service projects they participated in while attending the conference. The youth shared how the service projects made a difference in the lives of the people they helped; it changed their worldview and strengthened their faith in God. One of the panelist shared how she gave her life to Christ as a result of the service projects during the IMMERSE 2012 conference.

Ms. Denise Gratzel, ABCNJ Disaster Response Coordinator, shared opportunities in which the youth could serve in the region this summer at work camps in partnership with Habitat for Humanity in areas destroyed by Super Storm Sandy.

Rev. Tamara Davis, ABCNJ “Sacred Safe Spaces” Special Project Coordinator, presented ways in which youth can serve as a Christian example of a healthy relationship with peers in school, the community and church. The conference ended with prayerful reflections and affirmations that we are special agents for Jesus Christ in the Green Cathedral at Camp Lebanon.

Overall the youth and youth leaders were inspired and encouraged to be special agents for Jesus Christ by serving others in their communities, schools churches and ABCNJ region. Everyone had a great time.

 

2013 Senior High Youth Conference

ABCNJ Youth-Ministries

"Special Agent for Jesus Christ"

First annual senior high youth conference

Details

Date – Saturday, April 27

Location – Baptist Camp Lebanon

Cost – $20 (meals included)

Register online

The deadline for Mail-In Registration is April 21, 2013!

Promotional Materials

Download this flyer to promote the conference at your church!

Speakers

Here are some of the keynote speakers, and discussion leaders you can look forward to encountering this year!

Rev. Marella Holmes

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Rev. Tamara Davis