In her latest ‘first,’ UCC leader Delk receives ecumenist award from Virginia council
A longtime United Church of Christ leader has been honored by the Virginia Council of Churches for her distinguished ecumenical work.
The Rev. Yvonne V. Delk received a Lifetime Ecumenist Award from the Council during its annual meeting in November.
“It was the first award given to a woman and a woman of color in the 76-year history of the Virginia Council of Churches,” said its past president, the Rev. John T. Myers, associate conference minister of the UCC’s Southern Conference.
The award citation described Delk’s 60 years of ecumenical service “in the fight for human and civil rights for people of color, children and the poor” and noted that she has regularly worked “with all denominations and faith groups in the fight for justice, freedom and equality.”
Delk is a retired executive of the UCC’s Office for Church in Society (a predecessor of today’s Justice and Local Church Ministries) and Chicago’s Community Renewal Society. Those were just the last two full-time positions in a long career of UCC work that started in the early 1960s and has continued through many projects long beyond her formal retirement in 1999.
Ecumenism has been a constant in that career. A few examples:
- Between positions as a religious education director with UCC congregations in Atlanta and Cincinnati, she spent the summer of 1965 with a National Council of Churches ministry to migrants in Michigan. Later she served on the board of the NCC’s Division of Church and Society and was involved in its prophetic justice work.
- While directing urban and Black education for the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries from 1969 to 1976, she chaired the Black Church Education Task Force of the ecumenical Joint Educational Development project.
- During her years leading OCIS and CRS, she was a UCC representative to the World Council of Churches from 1984 to 1997, chairing the WCC’s Program to Combat Racism and its 1990 World Convocation on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation in Seoul, South Korea.
- She has chaired the board of directors of the ecumenical social action movement Sojourners and served as a contributing editor of its magazine.
Participants in the online meeting watched as Delk received the award in person, presented by Myers and the Rev. Lilton Marks, retired pastor of Fellowship UCC, Chesapeake, Va. The three (pictured) wore masks as a COVID-19 precaution during the livestreamed Nov. 12 presentation at New Macedonia Christian UCC, Norfolk, the church of Delk’s youth.
The citation noted that the award was just the latest in a list of “firsts” for Delk, who was, among other things, the first African American woman ordained in the UCC and the first African American executive director of a faith-based urban mission agency in Chicago.
“Dr. Yvonne Delk,” it said, “is an outstanding and gifted mentor, teacher and leader who has served selflessly in all areas of ministry across all denominations and faith groups throughout the world.”
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