This year’s Day at the legislature was filled to the brim with information, straight from the source. We heard from one of the top advocates for Criminal Justice Reform in the State of Oklahoma, Kris Steele, who outlined the breadth of the issue beautifully. And although the morning’s keynote was enlightening, it was also overwhelming.
Where do we begin? How do the necessary changes need to happen?
The follow up panel discussion helped guide some advocacy for us directly. We heard from Oklahoma County’s District Attorney David Prater directly about the pressure fines and fees place on his office and other DA’s across the state. We heard from Rep. Cyndi Munson about the State’s budget process and the need for individuals like us to call our Legislators to advocate for changes in the budget to help shift the system. Damion Shade and Nicole McAfee brought a wealth of knowledge from the world of policy and advocacy, and the conversation was informative and broad. I know I left knowing more about what to specifically ask my legislators and felt more empowered about advocacy going forward, I hope our participants did as well.
After a hearty lunch, where we filled the 4th floor rotunda with conversation and community building, we journeyed into different workshops. OEA President Alicia Priest, Vice President Katherine Bishop, and Legislative Specialist Ivy Riggs lead a powerful workshop on the State of Education in Oklahoma, helping us all know a little more about the current state of things after last session’s Teacher Walkout. And former Representative and Criminal Justice Reform Advocate Cory Williams visited more with participants about how to engage advocacy at the local level. Sabine Brown from Oklahoma Policy Institute additionally worked with participants to strengthen advocacy awareness and empower us to do the work.
It was a full day. It was a good day. As a faith community, I feel we are all better equipped to help address the issue of Oklahoma being 1st and 49th. Stay in touch with OCC as we continue to do the work.
Keynote Speaker: THE REVEREND DR. DARRELL LARUE ARMSTRONG
The Rev. Dr. Darrell L. Armstrong is a native of South (Central) Los Angeles, California where he was born and raised. He is the proud father of Amaris Kayla (14 yrs.) a future concert pianist and veterinarian and Daniel LaRue (12 yrs.), a future professional soccer player and engineer. The Rev. Armstrong is in his 19th year of service as the pastor of the historic Shiloh Baptist Church of Trenton, NJ. Shiloh is a thriving community of faith rooted in the rich and diverse worship traditions of the African Diaspora. He is only the church’s third pastor in the last 115 years! During his tenure, Shiloh has more than tripled its budget and nearly tripled its membership to more than 820-plus families. He is leading his congregation in building a new $7M Family Life Center, which is the first phase of a comprehensive, community revitalization effort that anticipates $50- plus million in tangible and intangible investments into a blighted urban area to create a "Strengthening Families-Life Empowerment Campus." His policy training at Stanford University (BA in Public Policy), theological training at Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and therapeutic/clinical training at The College of New Jersey (Ed.S. in marriage & family therapy), current doctoral work in Trauma-Informed Care at Liberty University (D.Min. In Pastoral Care & Counseling), have ALL uniquely prepared Rev. Armstrong to be a respected voice in the national and international child welfare/family strengthening communities. He is a certified trainer in: (1) Child Sexual Assault; (2) Infant Mental Health; (3) Responsible Fatherhood and; (4) Family Development Credential.
He sees his “global work & life’s call” as striving to make ALL families stronger by addressing issues which impact their physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being...BEFORE they get into crisis! As such, he is considered an international leader on issues pertaining to child welfare, child displacement, and family strengthening, particularly foster and kinship care. He is a charter-[motivational] speaker for the Los Angeles Department of Children Services' Independent Living Program (1990- present), former member of the NJ Governor’s Cabinet for Children (2002-2005), former co-chair of the Child Welfare Transition Team for former NJ Governor Jon Corzine (12/05-01/06), and Child, Family, & Human Services Transition Team Member for current NJ Governor Phil Murphy (12/2017-01/2018). Building on these experiences, the Rev. Armstrong was asked to serve as the Director of the Division of (Child Abuse) Prevention and Community Partnerships (DPCP) for the newly created NJ Department of Children and Families from March, 2006 to April, 2009. In this position, he oversaw a budget of greater than $100M+ in primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention funding, and was responsible for New Jersey’s statewide strategy to prevent child abuse and strengthen families. Upon leaving state government in April, 2009, he founded the Institute for Clergy Training (IFCT). The IFCT is dedicated to helping clergy of all faiths better understand and implement in their houses of worship, stronger family engagement programs that strengthen overall family functioning and well-being. Since its inception in 2009, the IFCT has trained dozens of clergy of ALL faiths to better understand the intersection of child welfare, intimate partner/domestic violence, family violence, substance abuse, and mental health. In February, 2016, the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (B.W.A.) appointed him the Chief Administrative Officer to the United Nations for the B.W.A. [Falls Church, VA]. The Rev. Armstrong is the author of several books and training manuals and has been featured in several public broadcast mediums (ie...television, radio, and social media) about his work with children and families around the world. He has been officially recognized and honored by numerous governmental, religious and civic organizations, among which include the following: the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games [in December 2001 he carried the torch in NJ's Capital County (Mercer) on behalf of America’s then 600,000+ foster children!] and the Casey Family Programs, as “Distinguished Foster Care Alum” award (2010). In May of 2010, he was chosen to be the first non-Presbyterian member of the Princeton Seminary Board of Trustees in its 207h-plus year history (1812-present); He is a Member of the following organizations: =>Chi Sigma Iota International Honor Society for professional counselors & counselor educators (Alpha Epsilon Chapter), => Life Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) - Fall, 2015; => Life Member of Stanford University Alumni Association (SUAA) - Fall, 2000.
VARIOUS FORMS OF CHAPLAINCY EXPERIENCE:
=> EDUCATIONAL Chaplain - Princeton University Chapel, Office of the Dean of Religious LIfe (1995-1997);
=> POLICE Chaplain - Trenton Police Department (International Association of Police Chaplains (2013 - present);
=> CHILD WELFARE Chaplain - Institue for Clergy Training (2009 - present);
=> CRUISE SHIP Chaplain - Festival At Sea / wwww.FestivalAtSea.com (20-plus years aboard Carnival & Celebrity Cruise Lines);
Other Event Speakers
Rep. Cyndi Munson
Originally from Lawton, Cyndi developed her passion for public service at an early age. Her father’s military service taught Cyndi and her sister, Sandra, the importance of giving back.
Cyndi has spent a decade working and volunteering in Oklahoma City’s non-profit community. She spent the last five years working with Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, providing leadership programs for thousands of girls in low-income schools, juvenile detention centers and public housing.
Cyndi is an alumni member of Leadership Oklahoma City’s LOYAL Class VIII, a skill-based leadership training program for young adults beginning their civic lives.
In the community, she serves as chair of the Infant Crisis Services Young Professionals Group, member of the Oklahoma Messages Project Board of Directors, and member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma City Resource Board. Cyndi is a 2006 graduate of the National Education for Women’s (N.E.W.) Leadership program through the University of Oklahoma, a program for undergraduate women interested in public service.
In her free time, Cyndi enjoys running, reading, mentoring young women, trying new local restaurants and attending events in Oklahoma City, and spending time with her family and friends. Cyndi is also an active member of Crestwood Vineyard Church in Oklahoma City.
Elected in September of 2015, Cyndi became the first Asian-American woman elected to the Oklahoma Legislature. Rep. Munson is Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and co-chair of the OK25by25 Early Childhood Caucus
The Rev. Chris Moore
Born and raised in Oklahoma, The Rev. Chris Moore was ordained into the UCC in 2009, after many years in the I.T. Management industry. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa. He has served at First Congregational UCC Church of Norman, Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City, and has been the pastor at Fellowship UCC in Tulsa since late 2013. He currently resides on the board of JustHope, working collaboratively in Nicaragua, ACTION, a broad-based community organizing effort and Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, an 80 year old interfaith advocacy organization. He also participates extensively in the social justice efforts of Tulsa. His wife, Kathy, is a speech pathologist and they have two boys.
Reverend Lee E. Cooper, Jr.
Reverend Lee E. Cooper, Jr., as a native Oklahoman, has held leadership positions in the ministry, government and in his community for more than 32 years.
He is the Senior Pastor at Prospect Church where he has been for 31 years. During these years he built a state of the art sanctuary and a youth and education facility. His membership continues to grow over 1500 members. In his role as a pastor, he has been the president of The Progressive Oklahoma Baptist Convention, served on Oklahoma’s Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, served on the One Church One Child State Advisory Board from 1989-2002 and has been the chairman of the Oklahoma City Wide Martin Luther King Jr. Service for the past 15 years. He continues to be the Social Action Chairman of The Concerned Clergy for Spiritual Renewal as he has for the past 11 years.
A graduate of Southeast High School in Oklahoma City, he earned his B.A. at Bishop College in Dallas, Texas and his Master of Divinity at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. He has attended the Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for post-graduate courses.
He is married to Katherine N. Cooper and has three children, Lee III, Derrick, Kaci and granddaughter, Leiah. His parents were the late Lee and Dorothy Cooper.
Clergy Renewal Through Environmental Awareness
Have you ever…
…Tasted a crunchy, sweet, plump radish that you just pulled from the holy ground, formed from tiny seeds planted only a few weeks earlier?
…Enveloped yourself in a field of snapdragons, larkspur and sweet peas in bright June, soaking in their exquisite glory?
…Knelt by a bed of soft, dark, fertile soil, with an offering of seed in your hands?
Join us as we walk inside the words, “God’s creation” and co-create with the natural world; as the garden becomes our church, God revealed in seen and unseen form.
CommonWealth is a grassroots-based urban farm and community in near NW Oklahoma City. Over the nine-month program, participants will join with this community in the ancient cycle of sowing seed and reaping the harvest, of entering the sacred partnership between earth and humanity whereby we are all sustained and nourished.
In the morning, we’ll participate in the daily activity of a working urban farm, right in the heart of the city. As we pause for lunch and break bread together, God comes to us in the pleasure and nourishment of food straight from the field. After our shared common meal, as the experiences of the morning settle into our bones and psyches, we’ll explore ways to ground our lives in the essential truths found in nature/ourselves.
A small group (6-8) of clergy attend a day-long program once a month, in which they spend three hours working on this urban farm and creating their own “clergy garden” and “clergy composting bin.” Following lunch together, the cohort processes with a spiritual director and environmental educator around their spiritual and emotional experiences working in nature; explore the value for themselves and the church of growing food; study theological themes in ecospirituality, and how they might move congregants into creation care—through worship experience, community gardens, environmental justice.
At the end of the nine-month program, the participants will schedule with CommonWealth Urban Farms a Saturday morning tour for three of their church members.
The program is underwritten by Green Connections. Also, as a statement of their commitment to attend the entire program, participants pay $25 a month ($225, due at time of registration.) The fee will cover food, utilities, equipment costs and supplies for their own “smart pot” garden to create at home. CEUs are available.
Purpose of the program:
To allow Earth/Nature/Creation to provide clergy healing and renewal through monthly time with their hands in the soil, experiencing life in a garden.
To experience community in a cohort of clergy as they work and share together.
To come to know the value of leading their congregations into creation care and how to do that (language in worship, environmental justice and growing food together.)
Short Term Goals
Clergy develop a community of peers outside their denominational culture.
Clergy get some fresh air and exercise.
Clergy experience the healing properties of gardening.
Clergy have the opportunity to process their experience with a trained spiritual director in a group setting.
Clergy celebrate at table during a healthy (locally-grown) monthly lunch with peers.
Clergy receive emotional and spiritual support.
Clergy explore theological aspects of creation care.
Long Term Goals
Clergy come to realize the value of growing food in community.
Clergy develop skills to lead congregations into possibility of developing gardens.
Clergy grow in understanding of value of our planet home, and saving it.
Clergy become equipped to lead worship using images of God from nature; develop other ways to bring creation awareness into weekly liturgy.
Clergy are trained in ways to lead their congregations into environmental stewardship.
Clergy have the opportunity to facilitate their congregations’ exploration of environmental justice.
First Fridays. Starts: Friday, March 2, 2019. Ends: Friday, November 2, 2019.
CommonWealth Urban Farms, 1000 NW 32nd St., Oklahoma City.
For questions, contact Pat Hoerth, 580.917.6011 firstname.lastname@example.org
Comments from Participants in 2018
Was the program renewing for you?
“Yes. It forced me to take a day…the accountability of showing up. It helped remind me to be grateful for those who feed other people.”
“Yes, renewing. The morning part is the slowest day of the whole month. Reminds me of playing outside as a kid. There’s a totally different flow than any other day.”
“We don’t know our place: the watershed, indigenous plants, the highest point, the lowest point. It helped me know my place.”
What were the most helpful elements and why?
Field trip to Deep Fork
“Getting to do spiritual things. No one gives us these opportunities. As leaders, we’re always leading them.”
“Monthly farm tours; the changes we see each month.”
“Our monthly morning ritual: coming in with coffee, reconnecting. It grew.”
“The whole thing was helpful. Interesting. There was the right amount of hands-on and head stuff.”
How has the program impacted you as a church leader?
“I preach a lot more about honoring all of God’s creation. I talked about the snake, microorganisms. Some people on fb said they didn’t kill the snake they saw because their pastor had preached about snakes.”
“We’re looking for a mission at church. Three people are gardening at the church. We are a Green Chalice Church. We’re trying to figure out how to reach out to neighborhood. We have 10 acres; we need a detention pond. We’re talking about glass in sanctuary so we can see outside. Maybe make a green belt. Other ideas are solar panels on roof so people can see them; worship furniture outside and occasional services out there. Let the neighborhood see who you are; Diane Butler Bass says churches wall out nature.”