“God grant me the courage to change the things I cannot accept.”â€”Rev. Dr. Alton B. Pollard III
CHICAGO, ILâ€”On October 1, over 200 people gathered to hear the words of Rev. Dr. Alton B. Pollard III at Chicago Theological Seminary’s 9th Annual C. Shelby Rooks Lecture. The C. Shelby Rooks Lecture was named in honor of CTS’s first African American president.
Dr. Pollard’s lecture was “Life in the Valley of the Shadow of Death: A Parable for 21st Century Black America.” Dr. Pollard began his lecture with an overview of the death of Emmet Till and the more recent deaths of other African Americans including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Sandra Bland. Dr. Pollard also mentioned the numerous deaths and acts of violence that occur in Chicago, including in August, where more than 40 people were shot on four consecutive weekends.
“The violence, the pathology, rooted in white racial supremacy…has seized us,” Dr. Pollard said.
In the second half of his lecture, Dr. Pollard shared a parable he wrote called “The Endarkenment.” The parable was about a pastor and her congregation that was able to reflect on its past and grow from it. The pastor sought to “…understand the secret of her ancestors’ survival in this land. How were they able to affirm life, even in the valley of the shadow of death?” As the pastor embraced her heritage and taught the congregation to do so as well, a new consciousness enveloped the congregation. The church began to grow beyond its walls and into the greater world, from community to community. The negative trends in society then reversed.
“By making our separate past our present source of strength, new generation of women and men were being prepared to become the leaders and lovers of us all,” Dr. Pollard said during his parable.
Dr. Pollard is Dean and Professor of Religion and Culture at Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC. He holds degrees from Fisk University (BA with honors in religion and philosophy and business management), Harvard University Divinity School (MDiv), and Duke University, Department of Religion (PhD). His previous faculty appointments include St. Olaf College, Wake Forest University, Emory University where he was Director of Black Church Studies at Candler School of Theology and Chair of American Religious Cultures in the Graduate Division of Religion (PhD program), and various visiting lectureships throughout the United States and Africa.
View the entire lecture on theÂ CTS YouTubeÂ channel.
About Chicago Theological Seminary
Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS), a seminary affiliated with the United Church of Christ, serves over twenty-five different Christian and non-Christian faith communities by preparing men and women for the next generation of religious leadership, whatever that may be. Founded in 1855, CTS promotes a progressive, forward-looking philosophy and is at the forefront of religious scholarship, interreligious dialogue and transformative leadership. CTS graduates, students, faculty and staff have been advocates for social justice and mercy since the days of the Underground Railroad.
Chicago Theological Seminary helps individuals discern and articulate an evolving faith for the future, whether in ministry, teaching, advocacy, activism, social work or social justice.
Chicago Theological Seminary’s Center for the Study of Black Faith and Life (CSBFL) is the first theological center within a denominational seminary to seek connections with the larger Black faith community inclusive of a variety of Black religions and to offer Master and Ph.D. degree concentrations in Black faith and Black life. The CSBFL is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of leaders who will speak with a prophetic voice that lifts high the African American heritage of faith, freedom and justice. The Center, through research, critical examination, theological reflection, and contextual engagement, addresses the forces of oppression and dehumanization for the betterment of academy, church, and community.
This annual lecture has been named for the first African American to serve as President of a predominately white theological school in the United States of America. He served as President of the Chicago Theological Seminary from 1974-1984. President Rooks was com-mitted to the study of Black religion, academic excellence and Church ministry. The C. Shelby Rooks Lectureship, open to all, invites individuals and communities, lay, clergy, students and scholars to engage in religious theological reflection on issues relevant to African American faith, freedom, and justice.