From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 07:32:52


                         By Julian Shipp 
ST. LOUIS--They came from backgrounds as diverse as the faces in 
the crowd they addressed here, but all seemed united on their 
journey to understanding God and the spiritual desire that has 
become their life's passion. 
     Who were they?  Edwina Gateley,  the Rev. James Forbes, the 
Rev. Tex Sample, the Rev. Ida L. Johnson and Rita Nakashima Brock - 
- five featured speakers at an ecumenical, college and university 
student conference titled "Celebrate: Gathering at the Crossroads" 
Dec. 28 through Jan. 1. 
     The opening sermon, "Your Project and the Power to See It 
Through," was delivered by Forbes, pastor of the Riverside Church, 
a 2,400-member interdenominational church in New York City. 
     Forbes urged his audience to make it their purpose or 
"project" as he called it, to carry out the work of Jesus Christ.  
He said this can be accomplished by understanding what restraining 
forces assault Christians, by taking care of the physical body, by 
not being afraid to make mistakes, by affirming and believing in 
the strength of individual uniqueness and by acknowledging the 
power of the Holy Spirit. 
     "You can't be a decent Christian without a project," Forbes 
said. "I propose that Jesus one who had a project and 
figured out how, even in the midst of all the negativity, to get 
his project through." 
     Gateley, the keynote speaker, recalled her struggle to be true 
to Christ's gospel which ultimately led her to Uganda in 1964 as 
a Catholic lay missionary. Motivated by her experiences in Uganda, 
she founded the Volunteer Missionary Movement in 1969, which now 
involves more than 1,000 missionaries worldwide. 
     A British Catholic laywoman and an internationally known 
speaker, writer and poet, Gateley,  also ministered to women in 
alleys, bars and brothels in Chicago and founded Genesis House - 
-a safe house and rehabilitation center for prostitutes -- in 1984. 
     "No one comes into the world with negative thoughts and dreams 
of being a drug dealer, drug addict, hooker or prostitute," Gateley 
said.  She encouraged listeners to continue moving towards holiness 
and wholeness regardless of societal or personal obstacles. 
     "God does not play games," Gateley said. "God will never fail 
you if you are faithful to the journey. We are responsible for the 
wealth of God (in our lives) and for our (spiritual) projects." 
     Brock, who served as Bible study leader, told listeners that 
although the birth of Jesus is a joyous occasion, it did not come 
without violence and suffering -- specifically the murder of 
hundreds of male children in and around Bethlehem by King Herod in 
an attempt to kill the Christ child. 
     Brock said the deprivation and violence surrounding Jesus' 
birth is similar to the lives of many American children today who 
also are threatened by poverty and violence. 
     "Our world today slays the innocent every day," Brock said. 
"And if the new U.S. Congress has its way, a quarter of American 
children in poverty will probably become more than a quarter, as 
programs to feed infants and children shrink." 
     Brock who holds the endowed chair in the Humanities at Hamline 
University in St. Paul, Minn., has lectured and taught in several 
areas, including women's studies, feminist theology and 
contemporary religious issues. 
     An award-winning author, Brock also serves on the editorial 
board of the "Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion" and the 
board of directors for overseas ministry of the Christian Church 
(Disciple of Christ). 
     Also leading Bible study was the Rev. Ida L. Johnson, African 
American missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of California (San 
Francisco area).  She is coordinator of the Neighborhood 
Afterschool Program based in Oakland, Calif., which provides 
tutoring, homework help, music, crafts and computers for elementary 
school children. 
     As Jesus was tested by Satan after fasting 40 days and nights, 
Johnson said, all Christians face temptation and must be especially 
careful not to fall for what she described as "the illusion of 
self-sufficiency" personified by "the American Dream." 
     "What has become so important in our lives that God has become 
marginalized?" Johnson asked. "Is it someone, something or even our 
religion that has minimized our relationship with God?" 
     The closing sermon was delivered by Sample, professor of 
church and society at Saint Paul School of Theology. A well-known 
speaker and author, Sample has been widely published in national 
journals and magazines. 
     "Celebrate: Gathering at the Crossroads," was the second 
national student gathering initiated by the Council for Ecumenical 
Student Christian Ministry (CESCM). Formed in 1987, CESCM was 
created to help build student leadership and strengthen the 
ecumenical vision and global understanding of American student 
                        # # # 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
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