After 2020 virtual chaplaincy on CHQ Assembly, Traci Blackmon to give Week 3’s lecture for the African American Heritage House

Traci Blackmon

When the Rev. Traci Blackmon first spoke as part of Chautauqua Institution’s Summer Assembly, she was to be the Week Two chaplain-in-residence, preaching a sermon series from the Amphitheater stage.

But, the year was 2020. Blackmon was indeed chaplain for Week Two, but she delivered her sermons via the streaming platform CHQ Assembly, preaching to a screen on the importance of story.

“So much of Jesus’ recorded teachings were done through the reframing of narrative,” she told the Daily in 2020 — fittingly, as her sermons were recorded for the remote congregation. “Currently we are living in a time of social, political, and theological distortion of story. This distortion is amplified through various forms of media.”

That week in 2020, Blackmon preached on texts from the gospels and books of John, Samuel, Acts. On July 7, 2020, she reminded her virtual congregation that “story matters. We have thousands of years of sacred story, stories of the peoples’ journey with God. Stories shape our perception, and it is interesting what stories we choose to remember and which ones to forget.”

Now, in a week navigating “What We Got Wrong: Learning from Our Mistakes,” Blackmon will speak in-person at Chautauqua, at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy for the African American Heritage House’s Chautauqua Speaker Series.

Blackmon is the former associate general minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ, a position she held for eight years. Her life work focuses on communal resistance to systemic injustice, and she has spent the last two decades preaching and teaching a theology that consistently and unapologetically calls community to hear the cries of the suffering in the world. 

Prior to that, she was appointed acting executive minister for the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries in 2015 by the UCC Board; then elected to a full four-year term by General Synod in 2017, and re-elected again by the UCC’s national gathering in 2021.

Before she was ordained, Blackmon was a licensed registered nurse with an emphasis in critical care and community health. In that work, she developed a mobile unit health program targeting underserved and uninsured populations for BJC Healthcare System. She was appointed to President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships for the White House, and has been honored with the White House Volunteer Service Award, the NAACP Rosa Parks Award; The Urban League of St. Louis Woman in Leadership Award; the Antoinette Brown award, and the National Planned Parenthood Faith Leader Award.

In one installment of her 2020 sermon series, Blackmon described how her church celebrated Black History Month, reflecting on the contributions of Black Americans “to the rich tapestry of our American life,” she said then. “There are many untold stories about people who broke the color barrier, or made their communities better.”

She reflected on a moment in 2012 when Obama invited six senior citizens — unsung heroes, Blackmon said — to the White House, where they were honored for their extraordinary acts of service. They were people who made changes for their communities and worked for racial equality, from educators to World War II veterans — including a postmaster and a bail bondsman.

“The only thread among them is resilience and perseverance,” Blackmon said in 2020. “We have extraordinary stories and people in our own families.”

Tags : AAHHAfrican American Heritage HouseAfrican American Heritage House’s Chautauqua Speaker SeriesRev. Traci BlackmonUCCWhat We Got Wrong: Learning from Our Mistakes

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