Karen is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Rincon and a Certified Spiritual Director with a heart for contemplative practice, spiritual development, and a deep desire for healing and wholeness of all God’s creation. As a young girl, Karen watched and learned from her grandmother as she demonstrated God’s love to people in the community who were often overlooked and forgotten. For Karen, being a part of this ministry honors her grandmother’s teachings that all of God’s children are equally valued and beloved. This ministry enables her to live out Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor as together we dream and live more fully into Becoming God’s Beloved Community.
Dr. John Hayes
It was an epiphany whose meaning took some time to fully unfold: when he was 20, in a small village in Ghana, John was jolted into racial self-awareness and felt the first spark of a concern for racial justice. The spark has grown into an abiding passion, and it informs his work as an academic historian, an active citizen in his local community, and an Episcopalian excited about the Becoming Beloved Community initiative.
John grew up in Atlanta and lives in Augusta, where he is a History professor at Augusta University. He was raised Methodist and as an adult found his way back to the Episcopal Church. He is a member of St. Augustine’s of Canterbury. In the local community, he is a leader in the 1970 Augusta Riot Observance Committee, the Coalition for Comprehensive Change, and the Augusta African-American Historical Society. He is personally inspired by his ancestor Eben Hayes, a South Carolina farmer and Methodist preacher, twice elected to the state legislature on the “radical” Reconstruction vision of interracial democracy and equal rights for all.
The Very Rev. Billy J. Alford
Rev. Billy is the Rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Augusta and priest-in-charge of the Church of the Atonement in Hephzibah. He was born in Sylvester and grew up in Albany, where he attended the public schools of Dougherty County. Billy earned a Liberal Arts degree from Darton College and a BA in Speech and Theatre from Albany State University. He is a veteran of the US Navy.
Billy was baptized in the Missionary Baptist Church, confirmed at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Albany, and attended the Virginia Theological Seminary. He was ordained a deacon at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Albany, on June 11, 1992 and ordained to the priesthood on March 25, 1993. He was installed as the sixth rector of St. Alban’s, Augusta, on June 6, 1993, where he presently serves.
Billy has served on the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Georgia, as a General Convention Deputy, on the Racial Healing Committee, as president of the VTS Alumni (AAEC), and as Dean of the Augusta Convocation. He is the father of two adult sons and five granddaughters and one grandson of whom he is enormously proud.
Dr. Michael G. Noll
Michael is a German native who has lived in the US since 1990. He is a cultural geographer and received his doctorate from the University of Kansas. Since 2000 he has been a faculty member at Valdosta State University in the Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences. Much of his research has focused on the narrated landscapes of Prince Maximilian of Wied (1782-1867), a German explorer and naturalist, who traveled through the US in 1832-34. In recent years, Michael’s studies have focused on Germany’s remembrance culture as its society is trying to come to terms with its past. In 2019, he traveled with Gunter Demnig, the artist behind the renowned stumbling stones (“Stolpersteine”) which commemorate victims of the Holocaust throughout Europe. Michael hopes to apply his understanding of Germany’s remembrance culture to Georgia, as we address our own history of racial inequality and racial violence, and as we seek paths of healing and reconciliation.
Dr. Lela Lewis
When Lela’s father was elected the first Black superintendent of schools in the state of Georgia, her family’s home was riddled with bullets by people from an upset white community. Her brother’s bed was hit several times, but fortunately, her family was gathered in the den and spared being injured. As a child, one doesn’t grasp the gravity of that type of anger or understand what did my family do to make someone want to kill us.
Lela knew Coretta Scott King, John Lewis, and civil rights activist John McCowen, who died mysteriously in a plane crash, and yet none of this actually inspired her to speak out against racism and injustice. Why does hearing of and seeing the atrocities perpetuated against people because of skin color, race, nationality, cultural differences, sexual orientation and more become such an issue for her now? Now is the time when the opportunity has presented itself, when she is no longer sheltered from the results of the Doctrine of Discovery initiated by the Church—realizing now that in the name of Jesus Christ the doctrine became a powerful system to dehumanize those living on the land and to justify their dispossession, murder, and forced assimilation. The Doctrine, the precursor for white supremacy, still is the root of racial divide and thus causes in Lela the desire not to have lived without throwing even a small pebble in the waters of life that will create a ripple effect to help bring the love of Christ in the hearts of men “to do unto others as they will have them do unto them.
The Rev. June Johnson
Rev. June is Vicar of All Saints Episcopal Church on Tybee Island. She was born in Albany and graduated from Albany High School. She grew up in Sherwood Baptist church, where she and her parents were founding members. June attended LaGrange College for 2 years, then graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Music Education. She received her MDiv from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Since becoming a priest, she has served St. John’s (Bainbridge), Holy Nativity (St. Simons Island), and now is Vicar of her home parish. June has been married to Kent Failing for 30+ years –and gives thanks for his patience and love everyday. Her family includes Kent’s beloved son and daughter and their talented spouses, and 2 incredibly spoiled small dogs who think they are Great Danes. Life at the beach is wonderful!
June grew up in the midst of the Civil Rights struggle, watching the violence against Blacks in the daily news and in Albany. She heard often the cliche: If not now, when? If not me, who? Watching the same protests and hearing the same excuses now that were rife in the 1960s forced her to consider how she could be part of the solution to racism. God is always on the side of the poor, the neglected, the oppressed. Should not God’s church join the battle against the evil done to our brothers and sisters?
The Rev. John M. Butin & Rev. Cn. Julian M. Clarke
The Reverend John M. Butin and the Reverend Canon Julian M. Clarke are co-pastors at the historic Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Brunswick, GA.
Both are adopted Georgians. John is originally from the segregated Midwest where he was blessed by a few influential mentors and important friends who were African American during his upbringing in an otherwise segregated town. John was eventually led to Emory University in Atlanta, where he was two years behind Bernice King (MLK’s youngest daughter) Law and Theology Program there and became heavily involved in Atlanta’s social justice community.
Julian was born and raised on Tortola in the (British) Virgin Islands, where Black people are the majority population, and for him, Black Church and White Church begs the question: How about God’s Church? His previous involvement with Anti-aparthied issues and demonstrations; his participation in workshops on racism while serving at St. Athanasius’ Episcopal Church in this diocese; in the diocese of South Carolina while serving at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; in post graduate studies in the doctoral program at Virginia Theological Seminary, and now in retirement with the Racial and Justice Healing Committee, have cemented his idea that racism is a sin. Julian and John are happy to share their fast friendship in service with all fellow pilgrims who “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being”
God being our helper.
Dwala Nobles is a member of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Brunswick, Georgia where she serves on the vestry. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia and Georgia State University. Currently, she serves as an educational leadership coach at Albany State University, an institution that fully embraces equity in education. Dwala is inspired by the work of Dr. Catherine Meeks and her leadership at The Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta. With the support of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, the Racial Justice GA Team, and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, Dwala will organize a capital campaign to raise funds for the restoration of the historic, original Good Shepherd Episcopal Schoolhouse-Church built by Deaconess (now Saint) Anna Alexander. With God’s mercy, the restored schoolhouse will become a center for racial justice and community formation in this diocese. The center will serve to continue the sacred, community-forward work Saint Anna began in the 1890s and continued until her death in 1947.