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Faces of HIV/AIDS in the Congregation

by Louisville Seminary | Nov 19, 2007
On Friday, November 30, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will participate in World AIDS Day by hosting campus events around the topic of “Faces of HIV/AIDS in the congregation,” beginning with a World AIDS Ecumenical Worship Service at 10 a.m. in Caldwell Chapel. The service and educational event are free and open to the public.

World AIDS Day, observed each year on December 1, brings together individuals and organizations from around the world to actively participate in the fight against the global AIDS epidemic.

“We chose to focus on the global theme of “leadership” within a religious context based on the fact that our churches, communities, and world communities are lacking leaders who are willing to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention as well as encourage compassion, love, and justice for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS,” said Andrew Black, an LPTS student who is leading the planning team for this year’s campus events. “We are hoping not only to highlight that those living with HIV/AIDS are already in the pulpit and pews, but also that as people of faith, God calls all of us to be leaders of compassion, love, justice, and hospitality.”

The planning team has enlisted clergywoman Vanessa Sharp, who will speak on HIV/AIDS from the faith community perspective at a lunch-time workshop from 12:30-2:00 p.m. in the Winn Center. Sharp, a mother of four, has been HIV+ since 1990, and her story, “Surviving AIDS,” was recently published in Soul Magazine (June-Aug. 2006). She is a candidate for ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and will complete her M.Div. and M.A. in Church Music at Johnson C. Smith and the Interdenominational Theological Seminary in Atlanta in May. As an HIV+ advocate, clergywoman, and board member on the Presbyterian AIDS Network, Sharp has participated in numerous speaking engagements through the National Black Presbyterian Conference, the Presbyterian Women’s Racial Ethnic Conference, Montreat Youth Conference, Greater Atlanta Presbytery, among others. Her testimony of survival and faith has been an inspiration to many around the world.

The workshop is free, and lunch may be purchased in the Seminary’s main dining room.

Other leaders for the Seminary’s World AIDS Day events will include Andrew Black, an M.Div/J.D. student at LPTS and the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law. Black has successfully initiated grass roots AIDS awareness activities at Eckerd College and LPTS. In 2005, he traveled to South Africa to study the intersection of race, class, and HIV/AIDS as part of a fellowship on truth, restorative justice, and reconciliation. In 2006, he served as a law clerk with the Louisville Legal AID Society HIV/AIDS Project where he worked with HIV + clients on cases involving discrimination, healthcare access and government benefits, and the drafting of life-planning documents. Black received the Louisville AIDS Walk Ambassador Award in 2006-2007, which recognizes an individual who has served as an ambassador of HIV/AIDS to the Louisville community. He also serves on the board of the Presbyterian AIDS Network, where he is helping spearhead a project examining HIV/AIDS policies and activities at seminaries.

Navasimo Chifunda, a second year student in the Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Program at LPTS, is originally from Zambia in South Central Africa and brings to this event her personal experiences in dealing with the ravages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in her homeland. Chifunda is passionate about HIV/AIDS advocacy and aspires to do a basic unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in summer of 2008 at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, Ga., focusing on HIV/AIDS issues.

James Hyde has been an HIV/AIDS educator, activist, and care-giver for many years including the past four years he has served as director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at LPTS. Hyde, a retired professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Louisville, designed and taught one of the first seminary courses in the country on the pastoral care of persons with AIDS and their loved ones, and received the "Golden Apple Award" or Best Teaching Award from graduating psychiatric residents at the University of Louisville in 2000. He is an ordained Baptist minister and has extensive experience as a pastor, chaplain, and therapist, including 35 years of clinical experience. He served on the board of the Wayne Oates Institute, the AIDS Interfaith Ministry of Louisville, the Louisville Pastoral Counseling Consortium, the University Hospital Ethics Committee at the University of Louisville, and the Judicial Ethics Panel of AAPC. This is the third annual World AIDS Day awareness event that Black has coordinated at Louisville Seminary. Along with the assistance of seminarians and co-sponsors: LPTS Committees on Gender and Ministry, Community Affairs, Cultural Diversity, Women at the Well, The Women’s Center at LPTS, President Dean Thompson and The Office of the President, the Presbyterian AIDS Network (PAN), and the Presbyterian Health Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA), Black says he feels confident “that this year’s events will be a powerful and dynamic witness to the love, justice, and compassion of the body of Christ.

For more information, contact Andrew Black.

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