Asbury’s Embrace Conference Explores Themes of Mutuality & Reconciliation – Asbury University
Shapemaximize playTriangle
Watch The College Tour
Contact Us

Asbury’s Embrace Conference Explores Themes of Mutuality & Reconciliation

November 20, 2019

Asbury University’s Embrace Conference provided a safe space for discussion and critical thought on subjects like racial reconciliation and mutuality this week. 

The two-day conference, which was attended by hundreds of students, faculty, staff and guests, featured special sessions, a Chapel service, live music and more. View a photo gallery below!

This year’s conference theme was “Mutuality: Christians and Racial Reconciliation.” According to Rev. Esther Jadhav, assistant vice president for Intercultural Affairs, the theme was taken from wording in the University’s strategic plan Imagine 2022. “Embrace” is listed as the third initiative in the plan and seeks to “cultivate a culturally responsible Christian community.”

“Mutuality is one of the key words in our strategic plan where we talk about redemptive social justice, hospitality, mutuality and racial reconciliation,” Jadhav said.

Jahav noted that the second annual conference theme was also inspired by the words of Ephesians 4:1-6.

The conference began with a screening of “If they Are Free, I am Free,” a spoken word video created by poet Propaganda and QIdeas. Student leaders led group discussions on the topic of intersectionality following the short video screening.

Bishop Leonard Fairley, the bishop of the Kentucky Annual Conference, served as keynote speaker of this year’s conference.

“Embrace is an action word,” Fairley said during the opening session. “It’s a word that carries with it a certain action. When I think about embrace, I always think about throwing my arms around somebody and saying, ‘It’s going to be alright.’”

Fairley emphasized the reason we must lean into the action of “embracing” the other in the Christian community.

“How do we live into embrace as an action in our lives and in our churches?” Fairley said. “What you’re doing here is very important and it’s important for this reason –  that there is a deep and subtle, pervasive darkness that feeds on fear of the other. It has absolutely gripped our world.”

Following the plenary session, conference attendees gathered in the Student Center Tuesday evening for an interview with Fayette County Clerk Shea Brown and Andrew Russell, who discussed their work with (Re)Imagine Cheapside, an initiative created to uncover the records of enslaved people in the Fayette County Records.

Embrace activities continued Wednesday morning as Fairley spoke in Chapel about the way that diversity is an essential part of our DNA as Christians. Students from Asbury’s Gospel Choir led the student body in a stunning worship set.

“In the DNA of evangelical Christians, God has placed the capability to embrace,” Fairley said. “The question for us is are we willing?”

Following Chapel, conference participants attended breakout sessions led by students and faculty. Sessions included:

  • “Learning to Listen” – Dr. Dan Strait & Demarion Johnson ‘21
  • “A Brief History of Immigration” – Dr. Steven Ybarrola
  • “White But Not Quite” – Caleb Norris ’20 & Madeline Smart ‘21
  • “Am I Willing?” – Sophie Saint Firmin ’20 & Elizabeth Thacker ‘20

These sessions highlighted topics such as bicultural and biracial identity, immigration, empathy and also gave students tips on how to enter difficult conversations about race.

Conference events concluded with a lunch talkback in the Johnson Cafeteria. 

The Embrace Conference is one of several events put on by the University that highlights the intersection of faith, culture and social justice. Asbury’s Intercultural Affairs Office, as well as the Global Engagement Office, Student Intercultural Programs and Issues Awareness Committee, host a variety of events each semester providing spaces of education and celebration around international and U.S. ethnic cultures and issues.

Learn more about the Embrace Conference at Asbury University.