Every year, Howard’s homecoming starts with a Call to Chapel. This year, Howard welcomed Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams brought in Howard Homecoming 2021 with the sermon topic “Exile or Exodus.”
Rev. Dr. Judy Fentress-Williams is a Professor of the Old Testament at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. She is the Senior Assistant to the pastor of teaching and preaching at the Alfred Baptist Church. Fentress-Williams also serves on the Advisory Board for the Office of Religious Life at her alma mater, Princeton University.
Fentress-Williams’ sermon was prefaced by a praise dance from The Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel Beacon Liturgical Dance Ministry to the song “Greater is Coming” by Jekalyn Carr, along with a musical selection from The Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel Choir.
“Please order my steps in your word,” sang soloist Susan Carter, as Fentress-Williams swayed her hand from left to right to the choir’s musical selection, “Order my Steps” by Glenn Burleigh.
Fentress-Williams is considered a blessing to many, according to Rev. Dr. Bernard L. Richardson, the dean of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel.
“She is truly a blessing to me, she’s a blessing to her church, she’s a blessing to Alexandria Theological [Seminary], and she’s been a blessing over the years to Howard,” Richardson said in his introduction to the morning’s speaker.
Fentress-Williams’ sermon was titled “Exile or Exodus” and was derived from the story of Ishmael and Hagar in chapter 21 of the book of Genesis.
“This sermon isn’t for everyone. This is for the ‘Ishmaels’ of the world. It is for those who are first born but second class, and you have been known by your status in a system you did not create,” Fentress-Williams said. “Ishmael is exiled away from what he had only to discover in the wilderness that what God had for you was never back there…they cannot handle the truth and beauty of you, so God had to make a way out for you, had to create an exodus,” she continued.
She wanted listeners to relate this story to their day to day lives. Although some things may go wrong in life, and it may seem as if they have been “exiled” from society over things that they can’t control, Fentress-Williams wants listeners to view it as a way out and not an “exile.”
“What I love about this story is the way the Bible is telling more than one story at once…we get a preview of what God is going to do for you in your wilderness,” Fentress-Williams said.
Both the Angel Tree Project and the Alpha Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. announced their organizations’ upcoming events at the service.
As Fentress-Williams finished off her sermon she said, “Get to know God for yourself…let God turn your exile into your way out.” She did not want the audience to be discouraged by the “bad” things in life but instead wanted them to see it as another way to succeed. When one door may close, another one will open, an encouraging message to kickoff the 2021 Howard Homecoming.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith