I have served as an Ambassador with The Black Church & HIV: The Social Justice Imperative initiative for the last six years and I am proud to be a co-contributor to the newly released Pastoral Brief and Activity Manual. I think for many, the Activity Manual, the subject of HIV, and balancing the Gospel and social justice within the day-to-day of Church life challenges us, personally and spiritually. When at this crossroad, I often hear faith leaders ask the question, “Well, What Would Jesus Do?”
As a faith leader, I too asked myself that same question. There’s an easy, short answer to this question in regards to HIV and social justice. It’s not a matter of what He would do, but a matter of what He DID do. This is an imperative!
In designing our HIV ministry at The Atlanta Faith in Action Center (AFIA), I wanted to make sure we used the components found in the Activity Manual. But once our Ministry Team went through The Black Church & HIV training, we began to see how many of the same guiding principles used to frame our HIV work could also be applied to other areas of our ministry.
Those guiding principles naturally led to a social justice framework that we began to structure into what is now known as an Integrated Care Ministry. As an Integrated Care Ministry, we wrap social services around “chu’ch.” Through several community based partners, we are able to systematically address issues of not only HIV care, but also housing, poverty, jobs, sex trafficking, access to health care, mental health, and dental care within the community, all while maintaining a Christ-centered, Kingdom focus.
The Integrated Ministry within The AFIA Center works collaboratively, and collectively, with the functions of Atlanta Faith in Action, the church. The church, in turn, supports the work of The AFIA Center with our Bible Studies, Food Pantry, Clothes Closet, and other ministry programs.
As Pastor, I also make it a point to include HIV in my regular Sunday morning messaging, and often discuss social determinants of health. Whether we are talking about testing, stigma, discrimination, criminalization, or equality vs. equity, there aren’t many messages that don’t focus around social justice.
In fact, our Prayer Ministry uses the Activity Manual regularly as part of their preparation for National Week of Prayer and for ongoing ministry. Our Care Team (Pastoral Care and Counseling) has even used the Activity Manual to help counsel those newly diagnosed with HIV, as well as their families.
Each member of our Ministry Team and staff are trained HIV Prevention Counselors and routinely test for HIV, HCV, and STIs. They have also implemented, ministry-wide, linkage to care protocols so that we can refer people coming to any of our ministry programs to the right place.
In using the Activity Manual, we have been able to make HIV a social justice imperative within our ministry, but have also been able to more effectively minister to a very transient community here in Atlanta.
I want to encourage other faith leaders to download a copy of the Pastoral Brief and Activity Manual, and allow God to speak to you. We welcome you to become a part of this imperative.
Pastor William Francis is Lead Servant at Atlanta Faith in Action, an Integrated Care Ministry whose mission is to transform ministry, minds, lives and souls in order to change communities and the world in which we live. Pastor William is a Life Coach, author and an ambassador with The Black Church & HIV: The Social Justice Imperative. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.