Uniting around black culture within the context of Reformed Christianity was the theme that drew 150 leaders from across North America to Pullman Christian Reformed Church in Chicago, Ill., for the annual Black and Reformed Conference. It was held at the end of April.
Keynote speaker Dr. Vince Bantu focused on his research of early church history in North Africa with special interest in Nubia (present-day Sudan and Egypt) and Ethiopia. He applied his research with the question of how attendees can bring the gospel to their communities and friends.
Pullman CRC member Lyman Howell appreciated that perspective. “People of African American descent might be thinking that Christianity is too European; they may not see African presence in Christian history,” he said. “When African Americans challenge my faith as being ‘European faith,’ I can give [the] historical context,” he added.
The conference always includes vibrant worship and additional workshops. There are social reasons for the gathering as well, according to Bob Price, ethnic leader for black and urban ministry within the CRC. “[The conference] is a black cultural style but it isn’t segregated,” he said. “It is our way of identifying our culture. We need fellowship with others like ourselves.” Price said that the conference is also an opportunity for the recruitment and development of black leaders.
Rosetta Polk Pugh assisted in organizing the conference and emphasized the rejuvenating nature of the conference for attendees. “It’s about connecting and spending spiritual time together,” she said. “[It’s about] reflecting on what they are doing in their churches and areas and learning something that they can take back with them.” While the style of worship reflected black culture and the conference focused on the black experience within Reformed Christianity, people of all races and backgrounds were welcome.
Brad Breems, a member of Pullman CRC, has attended several Black and Reformed Conferences, including this year’s. “It’s important for our Latino and Asian and African American congregations to maintain their identities as they find their way within the Christian Reformed Church,” he said, “so that there is a deepening of our understanding of each other and our cultures as we together serve God and profess our faith as Reformed Christians.”