When someone says “I am a piece of work,” what usually comes to mind isn’t anything good.
But in the eyes of the Rev. Cynthia Hale, it means women and men are a work of art put together by God.
It’s also the title of Hale’s most recent book, I’m a Piece of Work! Sisters Shaped by God.
“The title flows out of Psalm 139 and Ephesians 2:10; we are God’s workmanship,” said Hale, who will be Chautauqua’s chaplain for Week Nine. “I’m a Piece of Work! is partly about my own story from being a handful to becoming a mature woman and servant of God. I want to challenge women and men — not in a negative way, but to see ourselves as a work of art shaped for significance, for relationships and a sisterhood of service.”
Hale, who is the founding and senior pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Georgia, said she is not “playing it safe with her preaching,” as she did when she was the chaplain at Chautauqua in 2010.
“I started with a sermon on Christian unity, but this time I am mixing personal and social issues,” Hale said. “For instance, on Sunday my sermon title is ‘Why are You Tripping?’ and I will talk about things that make me trip. I am really looking forward to learning while I am at Chautauqua. I want to interact with more people than I did last time; I want to meet more people.”
Hale has led a conference called “Women in Ministry” for the last 10 years. This year’s conference will take place in September in Atlanta.
“I started in ministry 35 years ago and we had no mentors we had to make it on our own,” Hale said. “Women have come to me and asked, ‘Would you walk with me? What is this all about?’ There are more of us now, but we are still struggling to find a place in the church.”
Hale pointed to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which has been ordaining women for more than 100 years, but said the church still struggles to have women in executive positions.
“We still have to be better than the best to get to the next level,” Hale said.
The conference provides a place for women to gather to be mentored and coached, to inspire them to be their best, and remember that they are “shaped for significance wherever they are called,” Hale said. The other goal is to connect with each other, so that women feel less lonely in ministry.
On the Ray of Hope website, the church lists its core values as follows: iExalt the Savior, iEquip the Saint, iEvangelize the Seeker, iEmpower through Stewardship, iElevate Society.
“We are trying to hook the young people and young families,” Hale said. “They have iPads, iPods and iPhones. We want our core values, which have always been our core values, to connect with their world.”
Hale will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning service of worship and sermon in the Amphitheater. She will also speak about her faith journey at the 5 p.m. Sunday Vespers in the Hall of Philosophy. She will preach Monday through Friday at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship service in the Amphitheater. Her sermon topics will be “God Will Answer Prayer,” “Have You Got Good Religion?,” “The Secret of Success,” “The Way Up is Down” and “Work Your Grace.”
A native of Roanoke, Virginia, Hall received her bachelor’s degree from Hollins University. She holds a Master of Divinity from Duke University and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
She was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Award in January 2013 from The Balm In Gilead Inc. at the African American Church Inaugural Ball to commemorate the second term and inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Hale was inducted into the African American Biographies Hall of Fame and the Martin Luther King Board of Preachers of Morehouse College. In 2009, she was appointed by Obama to serve on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.