Interview with Rev. Bryan Murphy, President of the AAMA African American Ministers Association
Recently, we had the privilege of interviewing the Rev. Bryan Murphy, President of the AAMA (African American Ministers Association). Bryan is a friend and an important and wise voice at the ECC Mosaic Commission Table.
Bryan, will you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Indiana and went to school at Purdue before I moved to California in the early ’90s to work in Silicon Valley. After a few years in California, I started to sense a call to ministry and went into full time ministry in 2007. I have been the Lead Pastor at my church, Southbay Community Church in Fremont, CA, since 2011.
I have been married to my wife for 20 years. We have three children and three grandchildren who are the joys of our lives.
As we celebrate Black History Month, what in particular are you grateful for or celebrating?
During Black History Month, I am grateful for the growing broader understanding of the contributions of African Americans in our country. I feel like the conversation is broader than just Martin Luther King Jr. and the contributions of this one man.
To really understand the broad and rich heritage we have, we look to black writers, philosophers and inventors. Understanding the breadth and depth of contributions enlightens and encourages people to appreciate the richness of a heritage that they can be proud of.
For many segments of black America, the culturally normative reality is that we have been and continue to be second-class citizens and are considered “less than.” The celebration of Black History Month each February gives us an opportunity to celebrate. Black History Month is not just for ourselves but for the entire nation to celebrate with us the rich heritage and contributions of our culture.
Related to that is my growing excitement that the conversation is becoming broader than just one that is held in a particular segment of American culture. I saw a post on Facebook the other day that was encouraging because majority culture people are using this month as an opportunity to tear down some of the historic divisions and stereotypes and educate themselves and their children.
And so, the thought of this month not just being for a segment of our culture, but for the entire culture to celebrate the mosaic and our diversity, is exciting to see. There is a perspectival shift starting to happen.
It is deeply encouraging to see the whole mosaic celebrating and engaging Black History Month in different ways. Can you tell us a little bit about AAMA, its mission, when it meets and who serves on the Executive Board?
The purpose of the AAMA is to 1) support African American credentialed clergy and African American seminary students who desire to transition to ministries requiring clergy credentials and 2) serve as a partner with the ECC and its regional conferences on issues affecting African American ministers and the ministries they lead in pursuing the goals of the Covenant and its vision to impact the world for Christ.
We have three major gatherings every year. Peer Mentoring is an event that we host in October. It is a great opportunity for fellowship and mutual encouragement. We also gather at Midwinter and at Gather each year.
Our AAMA Executive Board consists of me as President, Brandi Sanders as the First Vice-President, Michael Thomas as the second Vice-President, Nilwona Nowlin as Secretary and LaNiece Thomas Flagg as Treasurer.
As president of AAMA, what do you see as the most important needs for our AAMA pastors and churches within the ECC? What can we be praying for?
Many of our AAMA churches are serving under-resourced communities and one thing that would be beneficial is to have sister Covenant churches (particularly those who have resources, facilities, or things that could be a benefit) partner with AAMA churches. I think it’s very much an Acts 2 model. That is a tangible thing that could help establish stronger ministry connections across the Mosaic and heighten the ability to reach more people.
Outside of that, I think a continued validation of the effectiveness of ministries outside of the suburban context, and affirmation that there is a validity and a recognition that God is moving in our communities and people are coming to Christ. People in our communities are being healed and transformed in contexts where thriving can be difficult. It would be mutually beneficial to celebrate these stories, and to have those stories be a part of our joint purposeful narrative at local, conference, and denominational gatherings—informing and shaping our theology, voice, space and story as we see and appreciate how God is moving within our multiethnic mosaic of churches.
I think this is more of a touch point than a need. I think we can also be praying for marriages, families and God’s provision. And as you would pray for your pastors and peers, pray for our churches and pastors and the weight and burden of ministry and leadership our pastors carry in the contexts they are serving. Pray that we still find balance and rest and that we are living faithfully to the call but not burning out in the process. Many of our pastors are solo pastors and so they carry almost the entire weight of their ministry on their own. This references back to the partnership thing.
What are some resources you would recommend that would give us greater understanding of the history and needs of our AAMA community?
- I would recommend watching this short YouTube video, “Systemic Racism Explained” and write down some thoughts, questions, or prayers that arise after watching it.
- Consider signing up for one of the ECC immersion experiences like Sankofa (Oct. 15-18, 2020 or Journey to Mosaic, Immigration Immersion Experience, etc.) or if you are hoping for something more local, ask your conference office to consider hosting one in your area. https://covchurch.org/justice/racial-righteousness/sankofa/
- Consider engaging a resource on Dominique Gilliard’s blog on “Black History Month Recommendations” https://dominiquegilliard.com/blog/
Great resources. Thank you for that. Lastly, for those who aren’t familiar with AAMA, what would be a good way to learn more about the association or get involved?
You can get involved by coming to one of our three annual meetings at Midwinter, Gather and Peer Mentoring. Our website is https://www.aama-ecc.org/. Or feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.