The second Joy & Justice Conference Rise Up & Flourish was held at Lilydale Baptist Church June 23-24th. The first conference in 2019 was a powerful gathering of Black Christian leaders. It is a privilege to learn from these leaders and witness a space created with Black Christians at the center so they can be seen and refreshed. The work of fighting injustice in our world requires refreshing and The Witness BCC provides – in their words; “dynamic worship, thoughtful presentations, and meaningful conversations that will empower you to experience joy and seek justice. You might walk into the conference bearing the weight of injustice, but you will leave Joy & Justice 2023 refreshed, healed, and carrying a renewed passion for fighting injustice. Rise Up and Flourish: It’s time to get free.”
Sharing some profound wisdom from the speaker and a few images does not at all do it justice – be there in person if you want to learn and experience the community. The time spent learning from these leaders was a gift that challenged me. I am grateful and continue to pray for their important and necessary justice work.
Chantel Varnado and a team led a powerful time of praise and worship each day.
Dr. Jemar Tisby shared, “we need to talk about our scars because we need to tell our stories and reclaim our voices.” His important vision and work was recognized and as Tyler Burns prayed for him it was a powerful testimony to the power of following God’s leading allowing others to become more free.
After spending time storytelling with The Fellows in Little Rock last year I count these powerful leaders as friends as well. Learn more about each of The Fellows and some of their stories here:
“Sin is both personal and structural. No lie can live forever. Truth will rise again. When we stand in the strength of God we can trust in the judgement of God.” “Although despair threatens the day deliverance will win the day.” -Dr. Kenyatta Gilbert.
Danielle Coke Balfour of Oh Happy Dani! invited everyone to “do less and dream more.”
“Hopeful reimagination involves using memory to help us to dream up alternative solutions to current realities in pursuit of collective flourishing” -Danielle Coke Balfour. She reminded us, “We have a living hope- God is coming and He will make all things new.“
Rev. Alvin Love shared from his wealth of community organizing and pastoring experience, “our natural state is potential wrapped up in confusion.” “We ought to be an empowered people. Purpose has to be followed up with action- we have to put legs to our voices. Your performance in the community will make room for God to make you become.”
The after hours party included an open mic portion where many shared their gifts.
Ekemini Uwan and Marc Romyr Antoine shared a panel discussion time about the Diaspora. Their perspectives from a Black Church as well as Global Church.
Pastor Tyler Burns preached a message reminding everyone and calling out God’s desire for them to flourish, “It’s one thing to survive- it is another to thrive. It is one thing to live it is another to flourish and you deserve to flourish. True flourishing comes from God- no matter what they do they do not hold the key to flourishing.”
“You do not have to be known by people to be blessed by God.”
“To flourish we need a defiant song- worship” and he asked the attendees, “What will cause you to flourish?” -Tyler Burns
Ally Henny celebrated the launch of her new book, I Won’t Shut Up, by reading excerpts and sharing some of her experience in writing the book and her family and The Witness community celebrated her leadership and voice!
Break out sessions allowed participants to discuss topics in a smaller setting. Natasha Sistrunk Robinson shared more from her new Bible study and the story of Joseph, “in going from bondage to freedom we must know our history. We live in a country that has gotten rich by stealing land and labor- ill gotten gain and we easily forget. We must reflect. We need leaders unafraid to dream.”
We sometimes don’t want the journey- we want the thing but we don’t want the process and we turn the thing into an idol. Pay attention to the journey.”
“Do not stop using your gifts just because everyone doesn’t love it.”
Rise Up & Flourish was truly a weekend of learning, worship, challenge, care, community, rest, and connection. It was a blessing to be there.
A visual storyteller that focuses on human emotion & connection. I help families, individuals, & couples to share their beautiful messy story.
I also partner with humanitarian, non-for-profit organizations, and NGOs share their stories with intention, dignity, & excellence, so they can have a greater impact on their communities.