Many years have passed since CUCC members had a connection with the UCC’s Franklinton Center at Bricks, a retreat and educational center rich with history in the Afro Christian Convention. On Saturday, August 5, four CUCC members traveled to the Center for a very special Franklinton Center Day, their annual celebration. Bill Gretsch, Sharon Hope, Gary Smith and Jim Smith spent the day learning about and being inspired by the Center’s work. Read these stories from some of our journeyers to find out what all the excitement is about. Might CUCC plan to attend this intergenerational celebration in 2024?
Stories from Rev. Sharon Hope
I was blessed to attend the Franklin Center Day with three others from CUCC and we, along with another couple, were the White attendees. The experience was joyful, profound, informative and I experienced many emotions as we heard about the history of the Center…from the days when the land was a plantation, through the time it was a Christian college, to its present identity as a retreat and conference center.
The worship service was a deeply spiritual experience as people spoke of the history of the Center, honored the folk who have labored to make it happen and the inspiring words of Rev. Traci Blackmon and others who spoke openly about the perils of the political and social climate in our country, particularly for people of color. They spoke truthfully on the one hand and with faith in the power of God that has been with them though the ages. It was inspiring and empowering. My hope is that CUCC might have a retreat there sometime.
Stories from Gary Smith
The Franklinton Center at Bricks is a large open campus with three or four buildings. I was in the auditorium/living room building and the food service building. The event took place on a hot August day; both buildings were well AC’ed.
The primary part of the Day took place in the morning in the auditorium. There was music, learning of the Center’s history, and speaking/preaching. Rev. Traci Blackmon gave the morning keynote. She is an excellent speaker and moved the crowd with her talk of the importance of the history of the Center and how God has been with us and will be in the future.
There were 200 to 300 people at the event. Participants and speakers were largely of African American descent, and the agenda appropriately reflected that. Our 4 person CUCC contingent was the largest white group, and we were welcomed warmly. It was beautiful to be immersed in the environment.
As a fundraising opportunity, we were encouraged to give to the Freedom Walkway honoring people who had been enslaved on the land as well as those who had supported the Center and its mission. A dedication of Walkway bricks followed the morning event. Some CUCC people – Art Eckels and the Rogers-Witte family – were named on bricks in thew Walkway.
For lunch there was the opportunity to eat in the AC’ed food service building or under a tent roof outside. We got food from a food truck, stayed outside and conversed with others under the tent.
We arrived at 10 and left around 2:30 tired and full from the experience.
What happened at Franklinton Center Day?
While children and teens enjoyed games, storytelling, African drumming, and a bouncy house, adults gathered for the formal celebration. After lunch (either in the dining hall or from the food truck), participants explored the new Freedom Walkway, explored local vendors, attended a book signing, and took tours of the historic buildings. The title photo of this article shows part of the CUCC group standing alongside the Freedom Walkway.
What is Franklinton Center at Bricks?
Franklinton Center at Bricks offers retreat space, but it is so much more: a demonstration farm for local farmers, a gathering point for the black community (including LGBT BIPOC people), a justice training center for young leaders, an archive of the Afro Christian stream of the UCC, an historical and active site for justice organizing, and so much more.
What’s next for CUCC?
If you’d like to learn more about Franklinton Center at Bricks or the Afro Christian Convention, talk with Jim Smith from CUCC’s Racial Justice Project. email@example.com