With HIV/AIDS reaching pandemic levels in African American communities, some Black churches have stepped up to the challenge, merging science and religion, engaging the African American community about HIV – where we live, where we play and where we worship.
This weekend Bay Area residents will be able to attend a free preview of the acclaimed documentary, “The Gospel of Healing Volume I: Black Churches.”
The film will be shown twice: 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27 at Imani Community Church, 3300 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland; and 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28 at City of Refuge Community Church, 1025 Howard St.in San Francisco.
Both showings will include a panel discussion with the film’s director Paul Grant, local faith leaders including Bishop Yvette Flunder and out-of-town contributor Rev. Edwin Sanders.
Grant’s feature-length documentary sheds light on how Black churches are creating AIDS ministries that serve both body and the soul. Deploying methods that are effective but widely considered to be against traditional religious thought, many of these organizations outperform their county and state-level public health departments in the battle to save lives.
The film follows five faith-based programs in rural and urban areas that, challenged with what seems to be grim and insurmountable odds, are leading the charge in serving and mobilizing their communities against the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The film provides a new positive outlook on how faith communities can respond to the AIDS epidemic.
The film introduces Rev. Edwin Sanders II, who is the founder and senior pastor of Metropolitan Interdenominational Church. His church created The First Response Center in Nashville, Tennessee, which provides primary care and social services, such as housing assistance, substance abuse and addiction treatment and mental health counseling.
“In areas that most people would not want to touch, we must step into the gaps in healthcare to build healthier people instead of building larger worship facilities within communities of color,” said. Rev. Sanders in the film.
With opening words from Jesse Jackson, the film touches on important historic moments such as the International AIDS Strategy’s announcement in 2010 and visual images of Black leaders publicly testing, including President Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Also featured are commentaries from pioneers of the African American faith-based response to the HIV epidemic: Pernessa Seele, founder of The Balm in Gilead, who began the Week of Prayer for the Healing of HIV/AIDS in 1989; and Bishop Yvette Flunder, pastor of City of Refuge in San Francisco.
Flunder in the early 1980s was the first minister to answer the call locally to the HIV epidemic.
The documentary debuted at the 2012 International AIDS Conference in July. Producer and writer Grant believes the film can be a resource to help jumpstart conversations with churches about HIV/AIDS.