By Allison Trussell
GREENVILLE—The African-American Clergywomen held their 26th annual luncheon June 3 at the South Carolina Annual Conference.
Dr. Amenti Sujai, the chair and associate professor of religion at Allen University in Columbia and the wife of the Rev. Daniel Hembree, spoke in the absence of Bishop Linda Lee, who could not attend because of health issues.
Focusing on the story of Deborah, the only female judge in Israel, Sujai said the name Deborah means bee or the one who speaks. She had a reputation of being an impeccable judge and could be stinging in her judgments. She answered only to God. Deborah held court under the Palm of Deborah. That bit of land also held the grave of her ancestor, the Deborah who took care of Abraham’s son. “The voice of God comes through ancestors,” Sujai said.
One might ask why the story of Deborah is important today. She saw suffering, but recognized it as being caused by limited beliefs. Her memories contained opportunities for Israel to be once more the strong society she remembered.
“We today are in a rebellious society,” Sujai said. “More and more we are failing to remember God of our ancestors. God doesn’t allow destruction without reconstruction. If we focus on what we have, we already have what we need.”
Citing the examples of Harriett Tubman, Shirley Chisolm, Fannie Lou Hamer and other, Sujai reminded the women that God has used us in the past and can continue to use us.
“God has given you the power to endure and overcome adversity. In this moment, God is present in you, creating new ways. … All you have to do is remember that there is a future and it is you that makes it so.”
The clergywomen recognized their sisters who had achieved ordination and retirement. The Rev. Angela Ford Nelson was recognized as an ordained elder; the Rev. Shirley Gordon was recognized as a provisional elder. The Revs. Carleathea Benson, Genova McFadden and Virginia Stafford were recognized for their retirements. All received plaques.
Special music was provide by the Singing Sistahs.