Post Author: Porsha D. Williams
“How do we decide what to study or what jobs to pursue, or what topics to write about? The answer is simple: do the work your soul must have” — Katie Cannon
There are works that are assigned to each of us. Some works come in seasons, while other works last a lifetime. The late Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon’s work was the one her soul had to have. As a result, thousands of lives have been changed academically, pastorally, and theologically through the foundation of womanist theology: a theology of liberation that places the lives of black women at the center. Womanist theology and womanist ethics have challenged weekday lecterns and Sunday pulpits as it has built new tables with enough seats for all. Today, through the work of Min. Liz S. Alexander and Rev. Melanie Jones, millennial womanism has been created.
Millennial womanism seeks to build upon the foundation of womanist foremothers: Cannon, Townes, Williams, and Grant to name a few. Womanism in itself was created by Alice Walker as a way to include the voices of black women when feminism was not sufficient or accessible to black women. Black Millennial women have a space both in the academy and in the pulpit and we seek to help black women understand that we have space to flourish, that social media and digital platforms are for womanist work and witness, and that our works are expanded through collaboration and sisterhood, as well as making space for the divine and advocating prophetic social justice ministry.
Millennial womanism grants me the space to further my practice as a pastor to youth in urban contexts, while spreading the gospel through digital platforms such as podcasting. As a pastor, my daily work is grounded in the prophetic and redemptive gospel of liberation and healing that addresses urban trauma among the lost, the least, and the left out, with an afro-centric hermeneutic. I sit among those who are considered to be “the other” and the voiceless in our communities.
I have specifically worked with black women, black and brown youth, and families who are heavily impacted by gun violence. I serve in a wilderness where the death of a young person is not uncommon. The cost of living is high and grocery stores are few and the education system is one that fails our local students. And yet, still, there is a well in the wilderness that reminds us that we are to flourish.
I believe we must further engage a full narrative of flourishing, while in the wildernesses of life. I have found that we have lived into the narrative of being co-sufferers with no glimpse of hope for far too long. While I believe that womanism is a discipline that seeks to be inclusive, we now have an opportunity to build upon the assessment for human flourishing.
Writings and teachings that uplift the black woman or her community beyond the cross and the wilderness are scarce. We who believe in and follow Christ, specifically, are people who subscribe to a narrative of resurrection. Therefore, as a preacher, I must share a gospel that teaches redemptive suffering and resurrection. Bearing crosses is not our only assignment. Christ did not die only to leave people in their suffering, but to give them life beyond the graves of society and the tombs that leave people to die and remain forgotten.
The tombs must be emptied and we must emerge with hope. Preaching and pastoring that is rooted in hope will expand the current landscape of the womanist discipline. In the new formation of Millennial Womanism, we are called to be whole people who are made to flourish; my daily work also seeks to accomplish this.
Through a ministry of podcasting, I have created a virtual pulpit where I am able to share in real time the things that can’t wait until Sunday. In the Black Church specifically, the Sunday pulpit has served as more than a sacred space to hear the words of God. It is also a place for information and for the latest news that impacts our communities.
Given the declining numbers of millennials in regular Sunday church attendance, I have created a platform for people to tune into a podcast crafted in sync with recurring conversations among black millennials: relationships, faith, culture, and adulting, to name a few. Millennial womanism challenges us to imagine beyond the mundane of what it means to share the Gospel. Podcasting is one of those ways for me.
Millennial womanism seeks to include a narrative of wholeness as a non-negotiable. In this current society, we need scholars, practitioners, and ministerial leaders who are willing to cultivate wholeness in the wilderness at the Calvary of our lives. Wholeness is found in the resurrection. To be whole is to be healed, and to have the pieces of your life intact, or to at least have a sense of what those pieces are. It’s a place where you come to know yourself as God has created you. Wholeness is a place where you get back the pieces that others took, get back the pieces that you gave away, and where the pieces you lost become found again.
Unapologetically, wholeness includes peace, joy, love, and kindness. Wholeness is what many of us have fought to have and will fight to keep. Wholeness is a journey that one must be committed to traveling, as the destination will not be obtained overnight.
Rev. Porsha D. Williams is the Associate Pastor to Youth and Children at the Bethany Baptist Church of Newark, New Jersey. She is a 2012 graduate of Spelman College with a BA in English, and a distinguished 2015 graduate of Yale Divinity School with a MDiv.
As an extension of her work in parish ministry, she is a published essayist, poet, playwright, writing consultant, blogger, and podcaster.
Image by: Porsha D. Williams
Used with permission