Dozens of ministers and lay individuals came out on Friday, Jan. 31, to kick off the 21st annual Granville Hicks Leadership Academy for Laity and Clergy in Claflin University’s James and Dorothy Z. Elmore Chapel.
The event continued Saturday, Feb. 1, with a panel discussion, worship service, luncheon, workshops and lecture by South Carolina United Methodist Conference Bishop Jonathan Holston.
Friday’s keynote speaker was the Rev. Dr. Zan W. Holmes Jr., pastor emeritus at St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. The former legislator, professor and author shared what he called “the lesson of the loaves” from Mark 6:30-52.
“In Mark’s gospel, this is really a lesson about discipleship,” Holmes said. “To follow Him (Jesus) is to be led into difficult situations – demanding, challenging situations where we’ll confront the needs of the world and the evils of the world, but where we’ll have the strength to overcome.”
By performing the two miracles discussed in the biblical passage, Jesus was leading His disciples to discover the truth of His divinity for themselves, Holmes said.
“What Jesus was trying to do was give the disciples a taste of his power, a taste of his love, a taste of his presence,” he said.
After seeing Jesus feed the multitude with two loaves of bread and five fish, Holmes said one would think the disciples would be convinced of Jesus’ true nature and therefore trust in Him in the midst of the storm they soon encountered on the lake.
“But Mark says they had not learned the lesson of the loaves,” Holmes said. “Sometimes we think that because we are the closest to Jesus that we are exempt from the storm. But to follow Him is to be led into the storm.”
“I don’t blame God for all of the storms” – disease, violence, war and other turmoil faced in life, he continued. “But I do believe that in the midst of everything that happens, God will teach us a lesson.”
Holmes said while the disciples may have flunked the lesson of the loaves, “The good news is Jesus did not give them an F. He gave them an incomplete,” and they were able to graduate through His grace.
Holmes’ address was just part of the weekend event geared toward “Reclaiming the Art of Preaching.” A panel discussion moderated by Claflin’s interim chaplain, the Rev. Keyvon J. Amos, on Saturday was followed by a morning worship service featuring Orangeburg Wesley Foundation Director the Rev. Connie Barnes; a luncheon and lecture by Dr. William McClain, the first fully endowed chair in Wesley Theological Seminary’s history; workshops by Claflin’s vice president of Institutional Advancement the Rev. Whittaker Middleton, visiting assistant professor of philosophy and religion at Claflin Dr. David Battle and Trinity UMC’s pastor the Rev. Larry McCutcheon; and a closing lecture by Holston.
The Granville Hicks Leadership Academy honors the Rev. Dr. Granville A. Hicks, a 1957 Claflin graduate who has been recognized for his leadership as a pastor and district superintendent in the South Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
The purpose of the academy is to equip laity and clergy for ministry and leadership within the church. It works to empower individuals with biblical knowledge, intellectual growth and theological reflection, thus enhancing church development, renewal and mission outreach. It unites laity and clergy, establishes church leadership, increases awareness of the role of Christian education in the church, offers cross-cultural experiences within the church, and enhances the church-University relationship.
“Throughout its history, Claflin University has always maintained and celebrated its Christian roots,” Claflin President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale said. “The relationship between Claflin and the Church has always been more than just an affiliation – it is, and continues to be, a true partnership.
“Claflin is indeed a place where the spiritual meets the intellectual.”