In honor of African-American History Month, Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries is collaborating with the Rev. Tawnya Denise Anderson, pastor at Unity Presbyterian Church in Temple Hills, Md., to lift up stories of young African-American leaders from across the PC(USA). Over the coming weeks, Anderson’s blog, “SOULa Scriptura,” will run a special series titled “Our New Day Begun” to highlight the stories of African-Americans who are leading the charge in shaping the church’s future.
This post features the Reverend Shavon Starling-Louis, a 32-year-old Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Southern New England and is originally from St. Petersburg, Florida.
Are you a “cradle Presbyterian,” or did you come to the tradition later in life?
Nope, I am not a cradle presby! I was born into a Missionary Baptist Church family; however in middle school there was passing of the beloved pastor of that congregation. My disabled grandmother who raised me started receiving pastoral care from a cousin’s Presbyterian pastor. When my grandmother became strong enough we began attending and soon after became members.
What do you most appreciate about this tradition?
I love that Presbyterians at our best are reformed and always reforming. We recognize that we live in the now and not yet reality of Christ’s Holy Kingdom; therefore we along with all of creation are works in progress. God is not done with any of us. I love that we lean into the grace of God for our hope and our identity, and I love that at our best, though our words and deeds we are people who engage reconciling ministry and justice-oriented mission.
What about it do you think needs to be changed or addressed?
I think we have a long way to go in helping our members know the power of telling their faith stories. We struggle in general with the ability to share how and where we have seen the Holy Spirit moving in our lives and in the lives of those in our midst. This makes for stifled and stunted spiritualties.
I also think we have a ways to go in moving beyond the tokenism of underrepresented communities and particularly within leadership. I sense a true desire for the gifts of diverse people, but when it is done outside of authentic relationship it feels like paint by number or committee by numbers and undermines very thing that it was aiming to achieve.
Click here to read the rest of this feature on the SOULa Scriptura blog and watch for more in this series during African-American History Month.