Organizing the Community of Faith in the Rappahannock Region of Virginia
March 18, 2021
“The Year of Crises,” 2020 is arguably one of the most difficult years in modern American history. Many Americans navigated the tumultuous year facing several crises simultaneously. The crises of a global pandemic touched every aspect of the American ideal and way of life. Leaving no stone unturned, the unsuspecting health, economic and social American ideals quickly fell prey to an invisible, and indiscriminate foe, of COVID 19. The collapse of the seemingly untouchable American cornerstones became the subject themselves of further discontent, confusion, and division nationwide.
This nationwide trend repeated itself in community after community throughout the turbulent year, to include the historic Rappahannock region in mid-Virginia. Birth home to George Washington, who went on to serve as General George Washington and later culminated his service as the first American President. The Rappahannock region indeed has its place in history and if birthing and nurturing the first American President wasn’t enough to the region’s claim to fame, it is also the heart of Civil War pride for both Union and Confederate historians. The Rappahannock region is an incredibly unique area with a very distinctive history which included a unique response to the growing crises of 2020.
In addition to the COVID-19 Crisis, communities across the nation, to include the Rappahannock region, struggled with the unprecedented crises of racial and socio-economic division. A Crisis which rivaled that of the tumultuous Civil Rights era and ultimately birthed a cry for social justice on a scale and urgency unheard since that critical era. The result was a tsunami of social unrest that moved in waves across the nation from north to south and from east to west.
Joining the tsunami was yet another crisis steeped in political indifference and intolerance. This crisis highlighted rhetoric and behavior reminiscent of the temperament of pre-civil war America. The chasm so deep many yet wonder whether the Nation can breach the great divide and heal.
It was within this environment, one newly minted Community Organizer became fixated upon organizing the community of faith within the Rappahannock region of Virginia to work together to withstand the tumult of massive crises. Graduating with a Doctor of Ministry in Community Organizing from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in May 2020, by June 2020, Rev. Dr. Temaki Carr found herself, answering the call of a community and nation in the throws of racial and social unrest amidst a global pandemic.
Seeing the community of faith largely uninvolved and absent amidst the crises, the retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, now Rev. Dr. Carr sprang into action organizing several successful multicultural, multiracial, multidenominational, and multi-church community of faith prayer walks/marches in the heart of historic downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia. At the height of the Crises and social unrest in the summer of 2020, Dr. Carr helped to found two very influential faith-based community minded action groups to help the Rappahannock region both address and aid racial reconciliation and social justice within the community.
The first group, named One Church Rappahannock, focused upon the pillars of Christ, unity, justice, and solidarity. The group focused upon gathering the diverse Body of Believers within the region through large scale virtual and outdoor worship and prayer initiatives. The initiatives provided an outlet for those disheartened and frustrated with social justice and racial reconciliation status quo. One Church Rappahannock provided an avenue for action for those disheartened by the inaction of the household of faith. Dr. Carr’s missions nonprofit, Loving the Nations, partnered with several prominent leaders and churches within the region, which included Rev. Dr. Raymond Bell of Mt. Hope Baptist Church, Pastor Jeffrey Smith of Strong Tower Church, Pastor Adam Blosser of Goshen Baptist Church of Spotsylvania, Pastor Ernest Custalow of Grace Church, and Pastor David Bradshaw of Awakening Community Church of Fredericksburg to serve as founding members of the One Church Rappahannock initiative.
The second influential group amidst the crises, became known as, Undivided Fredericksburg. The faith based racial reconciliation group of leaders, loosely based their name upon the bible study “Undivided” by the North American Mission Board. Undivided Fredericksburg seeks to address the racial division within the Church specifically through the tenants of faith and the building of personal relationships across cultural and racial divides. Dr. Carr along with founding members Pastor Tim Wilcox, of Choice Baptist Church, Pastor Eric Kelley of Watchman Ministries, Pastor Monica Gary Sr of New Wine Community Church, and Founder and CEO, Jed Robyn of Pilgrim Way Ministries, facilitate a larger group of (15-20) Faith Leaders weekly through racial reconciliation studies for the church. The group seeks to facilitate relationship and partnerships that culminate in initiatives aimed to positively engage and promote racial reconciliation within the Body of Christ.
The two influential faith-based groups address the issue of racial reconciliation and social justice somewhat differently but complement one another as they continue to work throughout the region. One Church Rappahannock has a broad reach and focus with the ability to draw large scale participation while Undivided Fredericksburg has a more intimate influence with a deeper and more personal focus. Both groups are successful within their sphere of influence and needed to provide the opportunity and outlet necessary to inspire change within the Fredericksburg, Rappahannock region.
Carr highlights the preparation from Garrett’s doctor of ministry program as the key impetus which propelled her forward as an organizer within her regional faith community. In particular she credits the hard challenges and tough love mentorship she received from her professors for sharpening her as she progressed through the program. “Community Organizing is hard work, definitely not for the faint of heart. Seeing the world as it is, challenging the status quo, and organizing others to contend for the world as it could be is more important now than ever,” says Carr.
Cohorts for the doctor of ministry in preaching and in strategic leadership for Black congregations are forming now and will begin this summer. To learn more about the doctor of ministry program, go to Garrett.edu/DMin.
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church, was founded in 1853. Located on the campus of Northwestern University, the seminary serves more than 450 students from various denominations and cultural backgrounds, fostering an atmosphere of ecumenical interaction. Garrett-Evangelical creates bold leaders through master of divinity, master of arts, master of theological studies, doctor of philosophy, and doctor of ministry degrees. Its 4,500 living alumni serve church and society around the world.