Family gatherings create tradition, open the way to healing and hope

  • David Jordan is President and CEO of Agape Child & Family Services
  • Pastor Daniel Henley is the Spiritual Health Manager at Agape Child & Family Services

Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, summer was a special time for me, Pastor Daniel Henley. As a boy, I loved the long summer days of biking, swimming and, of course, family gatherings.

My family would get together to eat, share stories, and meet new family members – all for the purpose of having fun. Those cherished weekends started with fish fry on Friday, picnic on Saturday, and church on Sunday.

These were such meaningful times, creating memories and getting to know our families again. When Sunday arrived, after the cars were full, the last hugs and handshakes exchanged, we said to ourselves: “let’s not wait until next year to meet again”. Whether we acted or not, we wanted to keep that connected family feeling beyond the weekend.

Like my good friend Pastor Daniel, I, David Jordan, have spent my summers riding bikes, playing ball with friends, and going to family gatherings. Our reunion began when I was a young teenager, when my grandfather died. His passing brought the family together in new ways. He was an incredible man. It’s no surprise that we hold an annual gathering to remember him and how he brought us together. I am proud to bear his name.

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Precious moments happen at family gatherings

Our meetings were held in Clarksville, Alabama. We ate, talked, ate, played, ate and ate again! I met distant relatives who were connected to Grandpa in ways I had never known. I had so many questions on the ride back. I would ask, “who was that?” and “how are we connected?” I wanted to learn about my family long after the scholarship ended.

In that same spirit of bringing family together to renew and build relationships, we recently launched The Bridge: Faith Family Reunion in Memphis. This annual event is designed to celebrate our common humanity and bridge our divisions.

Recently, we have lost many opportunities to connect in person. It is now doubly important to take time to celebrate, to be together, to share stories and to build new ones.

Our childhood family gatherings sparked curiosity about how we are connected and how we can be a stronger community. Likewise, we hope that Memphis’ Faith Family Reunion can be a unifier for our city.

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On June 25, we started this Memphis Faith Family Reunion tradition.

The event, intentionally nestled between the weekends of June 16 and July 4, drew thousands to Shelby Farms. Despite the heat, food trucks arrived, buses arrived, and churches came with music and theater crews.

Aaron Watson, Esq, addresses the crowd during Juneteenth A Family Reunion For The Culture at Museum Plaza on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The celebration included live music, food, games and more.

The scene was a mosaic of diversity of cultures, races and artistic expressions. Those working to be a shining light in our city shared what they are doing and invited others to join them.

This event gave us the opportunity to build a real bridge of people. The bridges cross the sides and rise above the division. Without them, we are separated. God, our Heavenly Father who unites us and shows us how to bridge our human division, says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

The Faith Family Reunion is a space to practice new ways to strengthen relationships for our collective future. We are confident that our faith will sustain us, our humanity will connect us, and our desire to build a united future will define us.

Visitors attend the festivities during Juneteenth A Family Reunion For The Culture at Museum Plaza on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The celebration included live music, food, games and more.

This year’s event was one day, but it’s not a one-time event. Mark your calendars for next year’s celebration on Saturday June 24th. We believe this new connectivity will help us go further and better support each other throughout the year.

Gathering once a year may not mend all divisions, but it is an essential first step in practicing unified progress. Like our families, our city has problems. Our hope is that we can come together in new ways to invest in deeper relationships with our faith family for a stronger and better Memphis.

There is work between meetings, which we commit to all year round. In the summer, let’s save some space between jobs to share some family fun in the Mid-South! Those interested in getting involved can contact Jessica Golden at [email protected]

David Jordan is President and CEO of Agape Child & Family Services

Pastor Daniel Henley is the Spiritual Health Manager at Agape Child & Family Services

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