From 26-28 June 2015, I had the privilege of attending the 47th annual UBE conference at the Maritime Institute in Baltimore Maryland. The UBE is an organization representing people of African descent and their supporters in the Episcopal Church and neighboring parts of the Anglican Communion.
The theme of our 3 day Conference was “Black Lives Matter”, inspired by the recent series of protests against police brutality in the US, some of which occurred in Baltimore. Presenters/speakers included Actor Michael K Williams, Congressman Elijah Cummings, and our Presiding Bishop-Elect Rt. Rev. Michael Curry.
Our time together was filled with workshops, panel discussions, and presentations on topics ranging from Police Relations, to Childhood Education in the back community, to reflections on the Life and work of Howard Thurman. We spent time outside the Conference rooms as well, participating in activities as varied as touring the world famous Blacks in Wax Museum and doing service work at an Urban Garden in inner city Baltimore. The UBE even created and dedicated a wax statue of Absalom Jones for the Museum. It was very lifelike and well done.
The best part of the Conference in my estimation was the Eucharistic Services we enjoyed together each evening, which were an interesting blend of Gospel style rhythms with the rich traditions of the Book of Common Prayer. I'll admit they were a bit longer than a typical Christ Church service, but each moment of worship together was precious and powerful. I didn't want to miss a moment of it.
One of the more memorable events I experienced was the Tuesday night service which was run almost entirely by the youth of UBE. In little more than 4 hours they were able to learn colorful African dances and songs, skits, and spoken word presentations. The amount of talent they showed was phenomenal, and I was frequently awestruck and impressed by what the younger ones could do. The Young Adult speaker for the day gave his own personal and transformative encounter with racism in todays America, which galvanized all of us to keep working to see change fully come to our country. It ended with a beautiful Eucharist and a candle light vigil for the victims of the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston.
Our last moment together was a beautiful service keynoted by Bishop Curry, who put his phenomenal preaching skills on display as he reminded us that we can have confidence in our future, for there is a great cloud of Ancestors who have shown us that the Way of Christ can be walked, and that God will continue to be with us as He was with them.
It was a very moving and inspiring experience, and I hope to go as many times as I can in the future. If you are interested in learning more about UBE, feel free to talk to myself, Cliff Spencer or Birdie Lee any time to get some first had information, or you can learn more at www.UBE.org