UCC invited to celebrate ‘living legacy of the Afro-Christian tradition’ with Litany of Thanksgiving

The Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, N.C., is approaching its 152nd anniversary, and the organization’s board and staff are inviting the United Church of Christ to join the celebration.

The Center’s history stems from the Afro-Christian Convention, which the UCC Historical Council affirmed as the Fifth Stream of the denomination in October 2022.

“The Center is a living legacy of the Afro-Christian Convention,” said the Rev. Henry Simmons, chair of the Center’s board and pastor emeritus of St. Albans Congregational UCC in St. Albans, N.Y. He has invited UCC Conferences and churches to include a Litany of Thanksgiving — created for the occasion by the Rev. Yvonne Delk — in their worship services on either Nov. 19 or 26.

This is one way to offer visibility and affirmation of the Afro-Christian Convention, Simmons said. “We’re hoping that the wider UCC can join us by including the litany prepared by Mother Delk in their worship services as we give thanks for the Center’s rich heritage as a partner in the denomination’s justice/witness mission.”

The litany names and honors the history and legacy of the Afro-Christian Convention and Franklinton Center at Bricks as “a home for bold visionaries and courageous advocates for economic, racial and social justice as they continue the struggle to preserve the hard-fought rights and opportunities that so many of our ancestors and colleagues sacrificed to achieve.”

Enabling the Fifth Stream to flow

Delk — the first Black woman to be ordained in the UCC — serves as the Center’s Council of Elders representative and edited the recently-released book, Afro-Christian Convention: The Fifth Stream of the United Church of Christ.

“It is our hope that the affirmation of the Fifth Stream that was given by the Historical Council and the affirmation that took place at General Synod will continue now to flow throughout the denomination,” Delk said. “One way of enabling it to flow is to celebrate the institutions that have also come out of the Afro-Christian Convention. The Franklinton Center at Bricks is one of those institutions.”

The Center’s anniversary celebrates the year when Franklinton Christian College was established within the Afro-Christian convention in 1871. This developed into what is now the Franklinton Center, which was an official ministry of the UCC. It became a stand-alone organization in 2015 and continues to carry out its mission of education, empowerment and justice advocacy.

“To have the Afro-Christian Convention make a deliberate effort to create a school and provide land to build a school on in the 1800s was a significant affirmation of the advancement of African Americans, especially as we were equipping and empowering ourselves for moving forward in these United States of America,” Delk said. “To celebrate that, and to celebrate what that means today when in many places our history is being called into question — some places are now banning the teaching of African American history, and many books are being banned that carry the stories of what it was to live through that period of enslavement — to celebrate this history in the UCC represents truth-telling and truth-facing.”

‘Embodying the Fifth Stream’

A special service will also take place at Franklinton Center at Bricks on Sunday, Nov. 19, celebrating the Center’s life, liberty and legacy and the Afro-Christian Convention. The Rev. Edward Smith Davis, Conference Minister of the Southern Conference and one of the inaugural recipients of the Center’s Spirit of Sankofa award, will serve as preacher for the service. People across the UCC are invited to attend the service Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. ET virtually with this link.

“Since we will be celebrating it on the third Sunday in November, it would be wonderful to have churches throughout the denomination also celebrating with us as a way of continuing to have education about the Fifth Stream and another way of embodying the Fifth Stream in its life,” Delk said.

The Litany of Thanksgiving that churches are invited to use is available on the UCC’s Worship Ways page.

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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