The Rev. Darrell Goodwin was installed as the first Executive Conference Minister of the Southern New England Conference on Saturday, June 19 - Juneteenth - a day chosen in recognition of the significance of a black man being the first called to the position in the newly formed Conference. (Watch the recording at right.)
The two-hour service - held online due to the pandemic - included recorded testimony from people who have known Rev. Goodwin throughout his ministerial journey, including friends, family and colleagues from his college days, his work in higher education, his work in founding Liberation UCC, and his days working for the Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota Conferences.
The preacher was the Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries for the denomination, who compared God's mission given to the servant leader and the people of Judah in Isaiah 61 to the old television show Mission Impossible, in which the team was given a seemingly impossible task and left to choose whether to accept it. Those hearing the message in Isaiah were likely exiles, who returned to Jerusalem to find a land quite different from what they had left, she said, and the promise of newness and hope likely sounded like an impossible mission to them.
"And so it is with us, my friends," she said. "God is always calling us to build anew. On January 1st, 2020, God did a new thing and the Southern New England Conference came into being with its history of the past and its challenges of the present and it's hope for the future, building on the strength of your rich histories together."
"And the spirit of the Lord God is indeed upon you, Rev. Goodwin, for God has appointed you to bring good news to the oppressed," she said. "What is good news to the oppressed? Who are the oppressed? The very presence of your being unapologetically black and unapologetically gay is a liberating vision for so many. To bind up the broken hearted is more than to just apply a bit of balm, is more than just to apply a bit of salve, but to bind up is to perform reconstructive surgery on the muscle that keeps us going. To proclaim freedom to those who have been bound. To set some folk free."
"Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to build with the people, reminding them always that God is in your midst; to give them joy for their sorrows, strength for their journey, hope for their doubts, faith in what shall be," she said. "And God's promise to the people is that working together, just as in days past, this new thing that you are building will be a reflection of God's glory not just for you, but for all who will come, and for all who will see."
Rev. Goodwin was installed by Rev. Angela Menke Ballou, current SNEUCC President, Rev. Jocelyn Gardner Spencer, the first SNEUCC President, and the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the UCC.
|Rev. Angela Menke Ballou gave the words of anointing over Zoom, while Rev. Goodwin's grandmother and partner blessed him in person.|
While Rev. Menke Ballou spoke words of anointing and blessing, Rev. Goodwin's partner, Kentavis Brice, and his grandmother did a physical anointing."As we have talked about the oil of anointing, the oil of gladness, we think about this day and we call to mind your ancestors. Your ancestors of family and faith. We call to mind the ancestors of the Massachusetts Conference, and the Rhode Island Conference and the Connecticut Conference, our historic conferences, and this brand new Southern New England Conference," she said. "We call upon the ancestors of our faith, upon Jesus and the disciples. We call upon the spirit of Esther, who was called for such a time as this, and Samuel, who poured out blessing on David, a man after God's own heart, which we see in you. We call upon the ancestors of Moses and Miriam and Aaron who led people to freedom. You are so anointed and you are so called by God to this moment. We call upon the ancestors and we also call upon the future generations, which will be blessed by your ministry."
Rev. Gardner Spencer asked those in attendance if they would "support, encourage and pray for Rev. Goodwin," and they responded with a cascade of "we will" typed into the webinar's chat.
Rev. Dorhauer then concluded: "I affirm that the Rev. Darrell Goodwin is here because the Holy Spirit both called for it and blesses it this day. Second, I affirm that the Rev. Darrell Goodwin is the next generation leader that the newly formed Southern New England Conference was looking for in order to claim its new pathway to living out their mission. His extraordinary gifts have been developed and proven in multiple settings across the life of the church, and he is uniquely qualified and fully prepared to serve. And I affirm that the leaders of the Southern New England Conference have discerned with faith and vision that the formation of this covenant with their newly called Conference Minister is in keeping with the movement of the Holy Spirit and that their choice is celebrated throughout the life of the United Church of Christ and blessed by that same Holy Spirit who partnered with you in this time of discernment."
The Rev. Yvette Flunder, Presiding Bishop of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries and soon-to-be SNEUCC Theologian-in-Virtual-Residence, then delivered the charge to Rev. Goodwin.
"Be the connecting tissue between your Pentecostal roots and your UCC justice call," she said. "Encourage these realities to converge. Bring your whole self and your whole experience to this call. Do justice and continue to dance in the spirit, fight oppression, and continue to speak in tongues. Sing praise hymns, and spiritual songs, and continue to carry your sign as you march for justice. And bring your black gay, educated, informed justice warrior congregational spirit filled self to this call."
By the end of the service, Rev. Goodwin was visibly moved.
"I'm so grateful today, friends," he said. "I say yes to the mission, but more importantly, I say yes to the reign of the spirit of of the living God, that the spirit of God might order my steps and the spirit of God might lead me from the top of my head through the souls of my feet. I say yes, yes, to everything that God has for me, that everything that God has for us together."
Then he added: "Thank you for welcoming this little brown boy from the south side of the city of Chicago to lead and walk alongside you and the Spirit of God."
The offering for the service will go to the newly established Phillis Wheatley Fund for Innovation.
Tiffany Vail is the Director of Media & Communications for the Southern New England Conference.