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What's Faith Got to Do With It?

June 13, 2014

Please, don't take this personal. When folks talk about faith and HIV, I can only go from my experience and the experiences I have gathered on my journey and the journey of those blessed men and women who have shared their faith experience with me.

Truth is, there is actually nothing wrong with OUR faith. OUR faith is strong, until we run up against those in the church who are not educated and who are ignorant. Those people drain us, and as one woman said to me in the workshop the other day: "seek to break our spirit". "My spirit is almost broken," she sobbed!

It is how some of God's people chose to live out their faith that gets me twisted sometimes. That gets me in trouble sometimes ... .cause I can't keep my mouth shut.

Don't think that because folks go to church and sit in the pews they are on the right side of justice and compassion.

I sat before a candidacy committee bout 12 years ago, and was told that they were concerned about sending me to seminary because they were afraid I would develop AIDS Dementia. IGNORANCE!

I would later be told by a "seminary" classmate (and of course they wouldn't tell me who said it: ‘usually when that happens, it is usually them), that there was an issue of me eating in the refectory (mess hall, dining hall for those who don't know what refectory means). They wanted to know about the silverware and the plates, and whether it was safe ... IGNORANCE!

Subtle and sometimes not so subtle issues of IGNORANCE about the HIV virus.

Folks in the pews worrying about who is sleeping with whom and what is going on in people's bedroom, instead of providing information about risk behaviors and safety and condoms for those who need them. IGNORANCE!

Some faith leaders giving their parishioners the side-eye and cold shoulder when they decide to disclose their status, to them. IGNORANCE!

My faith ... is good most days. Like everyone else, I stumble every now and then, if truth be told. I stumble and grab on to another believer until I can stand up straight again.

Comfort? from folks in some of these pews? I'll take it, when I need it. I'll definitely take it from my brothers and sisters who know what I am talking about.

What I need right now, is for EVERYONE to get EDUCATED! What I need right now, is for EVERYONE to get TESTED and KNOW THEIR STATUS. What I need right now, is for everyone to be SAFE.

That would be a tremendous comfort to me ... it would be a tremendous comfort to my community.

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This article was provided by TheBody.

See Also's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
More on African-American Churches and HIV/AIDS

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Is the Ribbon Enough?

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Reverend Andrena Ingram (also known as "Pastor Andrena" or "Pastor Ingram") has become a strong advocate for those living in the margins, as she once was. She is an activist in the HIV/AIDS arena, herself living openly and unabashedly with the HIV virus for over 22+ years.

Raised in South Jamaica, New York, Reverend Ingram served seven years of active duty in the U.S. Army. She would later move to the South Bronx, where she attended Transfiguration Lutheran Church with Pastor Heidi Neumark as her pastor and mentor -- empowering her to rise up out of herself and her life challenges, which seemed to her, at the time, insurmountable.

Reverend Ingram is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with a Master of Divinity. She has been the pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church on Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa., for the past four years.

Reverend Ingram can frequently be found speaking about HIV/AIDS, encouraging everyone "to know your status, get tested, and be informed." Silence = Death.

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