Adams to highlight interfaith dialogue, change

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Original article written by: Mary Lee Talbot

“People are dying to be exposed to faith in a way that builds bridges of understanding,” said the Rev. Joanna M. Adams, chaplain for Week One at Chautauqua Institution. “They want to experience religion in a hopeful way.”

Adams will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Service of Worship and Sermon in the Amphitheater on Sunday, June 22.

Her sermon title is “Why Not Pull the Weeds?” and her text will be Matthew 13:24-30 and 13:36-43.

Adams is currently the interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. At her official retirement party in Atlanta five years ago, Imam Plemon El Amin, Rabbi Alvin Sugarman and the Rev. Joseph Roberts all spoke. Together, the four members formed Higher Ground: Inspiring Positive Change, an Atlanta-based organization that seeks to create awareness on issues that affect those in four major faith communities.

“We were friends and we had worked on community projects over the years,” Adams said. “The head of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta [Alicia Phillip] was present and she got some donors who knew and respected our work to underwrite ‘Higher Ground: Inspiring Positive Change.’?”

In 2014, Higher Ground received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and Goizueta Business School.

“We wanted to use the resources of our faith traditions to move the community toward higher ground,” Adams said. “We know that religion can be divisive and we hoped our voices might help change that.”

Recently, at Georgia State University, the group spoke to about 600 people who were interested in interfaith issues.

“Religious extremism is the most frightening force in the world today,” Adams said. “The message for our time is that we should gladly claim our particular faith, but as we move to spiritual maturity, we learn from and grow from encounters with people from other faiths.”

She said that Martin Luther King, Jr. called people a family that had inherited a great house.

“We are all different but we live in a great world house,” Adams said. “This is our story exactly – to all live in a great world house. The Christian message for our time is to honor all people and this is what I have devoted my life to.”

Adams has served five churches, including Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, one of the largest in the United States’ Presbyterian Church. She has seen, and experienced, the glass ceiling for women in mainline Protestant churches but believes it is a matter of time before more women will head large congregations.

“The second wave is coming behind us,” she said. “Fourth Presbyterian just called a woman as its senior pastor and Riverside Church in New York also called a woman as senior pastor. Each generation makes the path more possible for the women coming behind us. As my time in active ministry comes to a conclusion, I hope I will be able to do my part to mentor them.”

She believes that her contribution to women in ministry has been to be the most effective pastor and leader that she could be.

“A number of people have a vision of a minister, and once they are exposed to a woman as a pastor – someone who gives a message of hope and helps parishioners with your care – they come around.”

Adams is a graduate of Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She holds an honorary doctorate from Davidson College.

Adams received the Alumni Association Medal of Honor from Emory and the Distinguished Alumni/ae award from Columbia University. She has been a trustee of the Presbyterian Foundation, Agnes Scott College and Columbia Theological Seminary.

Adams will be the preacher for the 9:15 a.m. worship services Monday through Friday. Her topics for the week include: “Keeping Grounded When the Wind Blows,” “The Z Syndrome,” “Clarity About Your Calling,” “The In-Laws” and “The Story of Your Life.

To read the original article in The Chautauquan Daily, visit: http://chqdaily.com/2014/06/20/adams-to-highlight-interfaith-dialogue-change/.