TROY - Participants in the 11th annual Leadership Conference Celebrating Black History Month left Troy University on Saturday with a challenge – do something to make a difference.
That challenge came from the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, who closed the two-day event on Saturday with stirring words that drew several standing ovations from conference participants gathered in the Trojan Center Ballrooms on the Troy Campus.
"There is a phrase I often hear as I travel around but it is one I have yet to understand," Dr. Warnock said. "The phrase is 'somebody ought to do something about that.' I find it interesting because it is a phrase that clearly demonstrates one's grasp of the issue while simultaneously absolving oneself of the responsibility and accountability. I hear the question: 'What are they going to do about it,' but 'they' have never shown up. 'They' are missing in action."
Dr. Warnock called on the Biblical example of Nehemiah, who asked the king of Persia to allow him to return to the city of Jerusalem to rebuild the city's walls that had been destroyed.
"Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king, a man of influence and access," Dr. Warnock said. "Nehemiah saw something that needed to be done and decided that he could do something about it. He knew the people were struggling and times were hard, but he encouraged them and convinced them that they could do something. The result of his efforts: the people committed themselves to the common good."
Dr. Warnock encouraged conference participants to draw inspiration from the example of Nehemiah.
"There is brokenness all around us – broken homes, broken communities, broken politics," he said. "We need to decide, like Nehemiah, that we can do something to make a difference and then we need to go forth and make a difference. Like the flocks of geese that fly in a 'V' formation, we must realize that we are all in this together and that everyone in that formation is important. We must understand that our individual location is not as important as our collective destination. So I challenge you to do what you can where you are."
Since 2005 Dr. Warnock has served as pastor of the historic church Ebenezer Baptist Church, known worldwide as the spiritual home of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He has also served at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church of Birmingham, where he was youth pastor; Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, where was associate pastor; and Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, where he was senior pastor.
Dr. Warnock has been active in defending voting rights and has drawn praise for innovative urban ministries such as "Cutting Thru Crisis," a barbershop ministry, as well as a series of Bible studies held in a local car wash. He has also been active in the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. Dr. Warnock has been listed by Ebony Magazine as one of "Thirty Leaders of the Future," and as one of "Twenty to Watch," by the African American Pulpit Journal.
The conference is sponsored by Troy University and the City of Troy, provides information to enhance the quality of leadership and civic participation of community leaders, area residents and university students. Major sponsors of the conference since its inception have been the ministry of Reverend S. D. James and Wal-Mart. Pike County Commissioner Homer Wright served as chair of this year's conference and Tonya Terry, TROY alumnus and WSFA anchor, served as the emcee for Friday night's opening ceremony.