Reverend Traci Blackmon
Reverend Traci Blackmon became the first female pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Mo, after a distinguished 25-year-career as a nurse.
As pastor, she leads with a broad vision of the church’s role in the life of her community. Her church doesn’t exist in a vacuum; rather, it serves as a launching pad for propelling positive change throughout the community. Her vision, coupled with her efforts on behalf of those in need, haven’t gone unnoticed, and one result is that Christ The King’s congregation has tripled in membership over the past several years.
Reverend Blackmon’s ability to develop solutions to all kinds of problems, however, reaches far beyond the local scene, and she is known for signature initiatives such as “Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit,” a mobile outreach program that delivers healthcare to underserved populations.
Her leadership after Michael Brown Jr’s death in 2015 generated national attention from the media and recognition from leaders ranging from Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who appointed her to the Ferguson Commission, to President Barack Obama, who named her to his Advisory Council on Faith-based Neighborhood Partnerships. In addition, Rev. Blackmon serves as Executive Minister of Justice and Witness for UCC’s national organization.
When injustice rears its ugly head, Reverend Blackmon shows up to bear
witness against it, as she did last August at the Charlottesville, VA “Unite the Right” rally.
Rabbi Susan Talve
When other Jewish congregations were leaving the city for the suburbs, Rabbi Susan Talve, the founding rabbi of Central Reform Congregation (CRC), stayed, joining with a small band of members dedicated to fighting on the front lines against the social ills plaguing our urban center. Thanks in large part to her leadership and vision, that small congregation has swollen to more than 750 households and counting.
Rabbi Talve doesn’t just believe in the need for inclusivity, she believes in radical inclusivity, meaning that one must do the hard work of developing relationships and standing up to societal pressures, as she and her congregation have done time and again. Whether she is creating the structure for long-term interfaith alliances with local African-American and Muslim religious groups (and standing up against Islamophobia) or whether she is actively encouraging LGBTQ families who have been shut out of their faith communities to join hers, Rabbi Talve is making good on her commitment to make CRC a safe haven for all.
She shares Reverend Blackmon’s concern for providing affordable healthcare access, and helped found an advocacy coalition, Missouri Health Care for All, to move that goal forward. She is also a passionate advocate for preserving women’s reproductive rights.
Both women have a lot in common, especially in their core values. Both Reverend Blackmon and Rabbi Talve understand the basic need to bear witness – to show up and support people being shut out by a system that was built to exclude them. That’s why Rabbi Talve was on that first “Marriage Equality” bus bound for Iowa where she legally married a couple, and that’s why Reverend Blackmon went to Charlottesville. They see a need and they act.
This is one of the important messages they will impart when they deliver the Rabbi Ferdinand Isserman Lecture, “Making Space for Grace: Hearing Voices that Cry Out from the Intersections of Racism, Sexism, and Heterosexism”