The Historic Penn Center

St. Helena Island, South Carolina

To explore the parables of Jesus in the Gullah translation of the Bible using four art forms, in order to enhance the discipleship, prayer and worship of four congregations. 

Provide a brief summary of the purpose and goal of your grant. 

  • To use the parables in this bible with the pairing of its artistic and spiritual message as a means to enhance a deeper level of faith to a multigenerational audience.
  • To use this bible as a spring-board to allow worshiping communities to see that the arts are an essential vehicle for God’s work in forming us as a corporate body with a duty to act as a moral compass for all humanity. 

To utilize this translation as a way of coming to know Christ's message through the pairing of crafted works of art: folk art, poetry and flash fiction; performance-theater, Gullah cuisine in a way that enables a congregation to see its vision as a bridge to creating meaningful dialogue about Christ's love for all human beings and human life.

What questions have you asked about worship in the past year? 

    Using the three categories of worship as a guide (outward, inward, and upward), what are some practical ways that the stories/parables contained in the Gullah bible and religious art can serve as a vehicle for worshiping God? 

    Do you think we as a society create and utilize Eurocentric religious artifacts that ultimately ignore cultural identity?  

    What is the importance of maintaining and presenting to the next generation the cultural identity of the Gullah people, its language, its belief in the power of telling and preserving stories, its spiritual history, its faith in God as the almighty power? 

    In what ways has your project engaged your congregation so that it impacts the worship life and habits of the congregation? 

    The featured events, held thus far, have impacted audiences by creating spaces for celebrating a renewed feeling of hope for the future and a deeper understanding of how the arts can bring together worshiping communities.  From the "Behold the Lamb of God: Live Nativity Performance," to the "Exploring Rev. Martin Luther King's Sense of Faith" to "Exploring Poetry in the Bible," audiences have seen and experienced the value in connecting issues of human rights to Christ's teaching in ways that we are our brothers' keeper.  In addition, audiences have witnessed how creating spaces where the arts serve as the axis for generating meaningful dialogue about our sense of faith actually assist us when we meet moments of crisis in our lives. 

    What criteria have you used to evaluate your plan to foster vital worship? 

    • Criteria has included: 
    • Distribution of surveys 
    • Capturing quotes 
    • Immediate verbal feedback from the audience 
    • Noting participation in the audience enhancement sessions (Q&A) following each presentation 
    • Input from partnering churches and their willingness to assist with publicizing future events. 
    • Input from outside organizations with their willingness to assist with publicizing events associated with this project. 

    What issues have been your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)? 

      • Challenges have included: 
      • Enlisting other staff members to assist with set-up for the events. 
      • Having staff members understand that Penn Center's name is associated with this project and attendance, at least, at some of the events would be helpful. 
      • Publicizing the events has been a bit of a challenge, but a grass-roots approach has proved to be beneficial.  
      • One of the partnering churches, Ebenezer Baptist Church, has had little involvement because the pastor lives out of town and has health problems. 
      • The event featuring Gullah linguistic professor, Sunn m' Chaux had to cancel his February presentation at Faith Memorial Church because he was snowed-in at his departing Boston airport.  This event was rescheduled to 5/14/22. 

      What would you like to share with other Project Directors? 

      • Always feel free to reach out the Calvin Institute grant team.  The start of Penn Center's project was riddled with obstacles, all team members were there to support me through each of the hurdles that needed to be overcome.  
      • Always believe that God has your back.  As the majority of Penn Center's events started to unfurl, there was always an angel who gave me strength to realize the impactful events that served as the core for this worthy project.  
      • In scheduling the communal feast, I was contacted by phenomenal scholar who simply wanted to share her work about southern, enslaved and free woman of color, who opened up their homes to union soldiers. They acted like the women in Old and New Testament, but their story ended differently.