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Bishop Beverly J. Shamana

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary 1980

Retired Bishop, San Francisco Area, California-Nevada Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church

Crossing thresholds and removing boundaries is how Bishop Beverly J. Shamana characterizes her ministry. As an African-American woman, she knows her ministry always includes thresholds to cross and boundaries to remove, not just for herself, but for others as well, including the historical boundaries and thresholds of race, class, and gender. She explains:

“These words really prompt me to reach out to the margins of society for inclusion in a way that supports the gifts and talents of other people, and try to give them encouragement, so that they can be all of who they are in God’s kingdom.”

Her understanding of faithfulness begins with listening—listening for God’s voice in life, church, the world, and listening for where God’s voice is leading. It also means discerning God’s future and working to accompany God, which she expresses in this way:

“I’m a musician and an artist and . . . I’ve accompanied singers and musicians over the years, and one of the things you have to do is to work in sync with each soloist or ensemble, not get ahead or lag behind, but listen to where they are, anticipate their expression, and then accompany them in such a way that you become one with them. So when I say accompanying God, that’s what that means to me, to be in sync with God, to discern where God is leading.”

In a broader sense, faithfulness also involves attending to issues of social justice, working to remove boundaries and enable marginalized groups to cross new and historical barriers. Being faithful, then, is “standing with those who are on the margins of society, giving voice to their hopes and empowering them to act.”

In speaking of her experience at Garrett-Evangelical, Bishop Shamana acknowledges that it played a significant role in her formation: “My time at Garrett-Evangelical was very instrumental in showing me what God’s future for me could be.” What drew her to the seminary were the Peace Institute, the Center for Church and the Black Experience, and Women in Ministry; nowhere else had she seen these three interrelated areas of focus that were so relevant to her own ministry. She has continued to remain involved with the seminary. A few years ago, she returned to preach in chapel on creativity as a path to discipleship and deeper faith. Her book, Seeing in the Dark: A Vision of Creativity and Faith (published by Abingdon Press in 2001), addresses how the arts can be a prophetic voice and an alternative to despair. Her hands-on workshop helped students learn to express themselves in ministry in creative ways—“to express what God is touching in their lives in a different way.”

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