Pictured, the Rev. Millie Nelson Smith shares a moment of conversation during the luncheon at which she spoke. Photo by Allison Trussell.
By Allison Trussell
FLORENCE—The African-American Clergywomen held their Annual Conference Luncheon on June 6.
Following lunch, the Rev. Millie Nelson Smith stepped up to deliver a rousing devotion based on Numbers 14 and the Israelites rebellion against God.
“I’m fascinated by this text,” the director of Connectional Ministries said. “There are so many unimportant people in the Bible that God chooses to use. So it is with Caleb.”
Twelve spies, including Caleb, were sent out to the land and were to report back what the land was like—arid or fertile, what the people were like—hostile or friendly, what the towns were like—fortified or unwalled. They go out and come back with reports of giants and suggest that they should look elsewhere for the promised land.
This bad report made the people lose hope and wail that God had once again abandoned them. Caleb and Joshua protested the report and said, “Let’s go, God is with us.”
Smith noted God didn’t send the spies to ask for permission or to offer an opinion. Fear of the unknown made the Israelites insult God and forget God overcomes giants.
“Today’s giants—racism, poverty, violence, disease, mental illness—cause us to fear, but if we believe God, not IN God, we can go forward with a different spirit.”
That different spirit, Smith said, is the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit that met in the Upper Room, the spirit that moved John Wesley, the spirit that dwells inside of us but shows up on the outside.
She recalled being at church one Sunday and seeing a pack of dogs moving toward her young nephew and some other boys. Without thinking, she began to run toward the dogs. The lead dog saw her and stopped, which stopped the pack.
“Sometimes you have to run forward.”
The United Methodist Church is at a crossroads, she said, but we are convinced God has brought us together for a reason despite our differences. If we come together, we can be a force to be reckoned with.
“The table is set,” Smith said. “Stop circling, take receipt of the table and we can drive out the giants!”
The clergywomen recognized two of their members who retired at this year’s conference: the Rev. Lillie Davis and the Rev. Lindora James. Also recognized were three members who participated in Sunday’s ordination service: The Rev. Shirley Gordon was ordained elder, the Rev. Kim Bryant was ordained deacon and the Rev. Darlene Richardson was commissioned as a provisional elder. Howard Parnell, band director at Keenan High School, Columbia, and Rose Sweeney Williams provided special music.