Reverend Colin A. Jones is a native of Columbus, OH and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion in 2003 from Morehouse College. He was licensed by New Salem Baptist Church in October of 2005. Reverend Jones entered Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ and received his Master in Divinity degree in 2006. Reverend Jones served Mount Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport, CT as their first youth pastor. Along with his esteemed wife, Pastor Jones is the proud Pastor of Shaker Heights Community Church in Shaker Heights, OH. His deepest desire as a minister of the Gospel is to bring forth real, relevant, and radical ministry to the church, the community, the nation, and the world.
A few years ago, I was privileged to serve as Youth Pastor in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where I facilitated an eight week “Keeping It Real” (KIR) curriculum to approximately thirty youth. One of the defining moments during our time together was a discussion of the term “sexuality” and how to have a more holistic perspective about it. For many of the youth, through no fault of their own, their understanding of sexuality had been limited to the act itself. Through the curriculum and after much dialogue, they began to remove the limitations that often were conveyed by friends, parents, the media, music, marketing and…the church.
Why is this important? When made aware of a broader perspective on sexuality, many of our youth began to have ‘flashback’ memories. That is to say, they began to see where they had missed the mark. As one youth remarked, “Hindsight is 20/20. If I knew then what I know now I would have seen the signs that led me to make unwise decisions.”Although the tide, I believe, is turning, the Black Church has historically been relatively silent when it comes to matters of sex and sexuality. Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but the Black community as a whole has been relatively silent on these matters. Therefore, it would make sense to deduce that because Black Church constituents are members of the community, the Black Church then is merely a reflection of such.
Only recently have selected Black churches taken on the subject of sex and sexuality; however, oftentimes it is not by choice! Rather, because of pressing health and societal concerns, certain Black churches have made it a point to respond to the challenging concerns of the time. In a study of the Black Church in America, C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence Mamiya discuss the progressive nature of some Black churches in the early 90’s. “In Durham, NC, the Church Connection Project involves six churches in health care, including birth control for teenage women…Seminars on controversial topics like the AIDS crisis or sexually transmitted diseases are held.”
When we look at our churches today, we often hear the expression, “Our youth are our future.” I believe this sentiment with every fiber of my being. Because this is the case, the church must continuously labor to have a message that is real, relevant, and radical. This must be the case if the Black Church desires to keep young people interested and connected. Although there are some churches in the community attempting to accomplish this, more are desperately needed.
On October 29, 2011, in Houston, TX, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) and the Black Church Initiative (BCI) partnered together to assist African American clergy and laity in addressing teen childbearing, sexuality education, unintended pregnancies, and other reproductive health issues within the context of African American culture and religion. I had the privilege of facilitating a rap session that included delicate matters such as gender stereotypes, self-respect for both genders, and abuse of power. Initially, many of the youth felt uncomfortable because, as was expressed early on in the session, “We’re not allowed to talk about the nasty.” Actually, the BCI seeks to talk about the “nasty” in a way that is healthy and holistic in order to bring about responsible decision-making. The youth were engaged and tremendously benefited from the video that was shown, other facilitators, and a motivational speaker. The youth from various churches shared from their souls because an environment was set where they felt safe to be themselves. I challenge you to do the same. Create an atmosphere where our youth can be themselves and dialogue about a wonderful subject that is at the core of who we all are!