Join the Movement for Change
Posted on August 01, 2013 by Dr. Timothy W. Sloan, Senior Pastor, St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church
Change doesn’t happen by mere idealism, but rather with the concerted effort of others. HIV has become an epidemic impacting the Black community in increasingly disproportionate numbers. The need for responding to this issue has reached the level of urgency. I’m privileged to partner with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in their Second annual “Day of Unity” to end the HIV epidemic in the Black community and bring about a change.
I admit that HIV was not on my issue radar. While health awareness is one of the pillars of our church, there had been a lingering fear of addressing it because of a perceived sensitivity. I didn’t realize the magnitude of this virus until I joined an NAACP faith community focus group to discuss it. I subsequently joined their advisory board to develop the HIV/AIDS manual entitled: The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative. This work has been transformative for both our ministry and myself. Our church has enthusiastically embraced this effort with a passion I hadn’t anticipated.
In response to this national effort our church has developed “The Luke Stands” initiative designed to provide education, create awareness, and promote engagement on various social issues that face our community. In 2012 we partnered with the NAACP for the Day of Unity. In an effort to highlight its importance, I personally took an HIV test during the middle of our worship experience. We then tested over 162 individuals in our congregation, many of them waiting well over 2 hours after service to be tested. We now hold a yearly HIV/AIDS Town Hall Meeting combining the voices of local advocates and organizations to talk about awareness and our personal and public responsibilities in this fight. We have partnered with a local HIV treatment facility to assist their clients with much needed personal supplies and support. We have also partnered with the NAACP to host local trainings for pastors and faith leaders on how to take action to end this epidemic. And there is still so much more we all can do with unlimited creative opportunities.
I have come to realize that not dealing with HIV is an act of pastoral and prophetic irresponsibility. HIV is in the church and the church must address it to bring about change! Ending this epidemic is going to take more than just conversation; it’s going to require us to get personally involved. I encourage pastors and members of the faith community to begin by participating in the Day of Unity and join the movement to obtain health equity for all.