Friday, June 23, 2017


By Brendan O’Hallarn

As someone who studies positive racial interactions, Eric Brown believes few institutions are better suited to his research than Old Dominion University.

It also helps that the Department of Counseling & Human Services of Old Dominion University’s Darden College of Education, where Brown completed his doctorate this semester, is one of the top-ranked programs in the country.

“I could not have asked for a better experience, from my cohort of students to the supportive faculty at Old Dominion,” said Brown, 40.

Originally from Wichita Falls, Texas, Brown found the Old Dominion campus community an ideal fit to study an integrated learning community. And that goes beyond race. Before beginning his doctorate, Brown spent 11 years as a pastor in Florida, and has wrestled with how to incorporate faith-based counseling into his research and practice.

“I felt supported by faculty members and other students, who might not share my faith,” Brown said.

Brown defended his dissertation, “Cross-racial trust factors: Exploring the experiences of Blacks who have had white mentors they trust in the counseling profession,” in April. The research project mirrored Brown’s experience at Old Dominion–forming deep working partnerships with University counseling faculty, many of whom had completely different life experiences.

Ed Neukrug, a professor of counseling, is Jewish. But Brown said Neukrug was the one who encouraged him to bring pastoral sensibilities into his practical counseling work.

Tim Grothaus, associate professor and chair of the Department of Counseling & Human Services, was Brown’s dissertation chair, and made a big impact on him.

“Dr. Grothaus is a person that I just think embodies social justice,” he said. “He is my role model for how I want to relate to students. I want his voice in my head.”

Grothaus said Brown is a highly respected member of ODU’s counseling and human services community.

“In addition to his prowess as an instructor, his seminal investigation into cross-racial trust in mentoring relationships is an impressive contribution to the counseling field. His care, conscientiousness and collaborative spirit have made him a cherished colleague,” Grothaus said.

Brown said he didn’t realize how much he appreciated his experience at Old Dominion until he began to interview for academic jobs at other institutions. “When I would meet with faculty and students at the other institutions, it was clear they didn’t have this level of diversity and this culture of respect,” Brown said.

Ultimately, he chose a position as assistant professor and program director of the master’s in clinical mental health counseling program at Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts school in Illinois.

He would love to work at an institution as diverse as ODU one day.

“I didn’t know anything about Old Dominion before I applied here. But this is a very special university, and it makes a huge difference in this community,” he said.

As we close out the month of June and our celebration of fearless fathers with faith, it’s great to be able to recognize the many fathers who are involved in their children’s lives. As I mentioned before, the media would have us think otherwise – particularly as it relates to African American men.

While we don’t want to focus on the negative side of fatherhood, I would be remiss not to mention that there is a crisis in America regarding father-absent homes. To help remedy this crisis, The National Fatherhood Initiative, a nonprofit organization was founded to transform organizations and communities by equipping them to intentionally and proactively engage fathers in their children’s lives. The U.S. Census Bureau states that 24 million children – one out of three – live without their biological fathers in the home. Consequently, there is a ‘father factor’ in nearly all social ills facing America today.

This information is bleak and needs to be rectified, but we can balance that with some good news. For example, studies also show that engaging new fathers in caring for their child in the first days of the child’s life, has long-term, positive benefits. In addition, more than 176,000 stay-at-home fathers have taken on the responsibility of caring for more than 330,000 children in the U.S. Male and female roles have changed and many men – married and single – are successfully becoming primary caregivers for their children.

While parenting children continues to be a struggle in many communities, it’s a task that we as fathers must not leave solely to women. Both mothers and fathers play critical roles in the lives of their children. I continue to be encouraged about the positive and important role fathers play, and I commend each dad (and surrogate dad) for making a positive difference in the lives of your children.

”Peace and power.

© Dr. Melvin O. Marriner,
Grove Church
June 2017

The Word Singers celebrated their 38th anniversary with a gospel concert at First Baptist Lamberts Point in Norfolk on Sunday (June 11).

Some of the top gospel groups in Hampton Roads and across the Mid-Atlantic region were on hand to worship and lift-up spiritual praises, including Ricky White’s Fully Committed of Virginia Beach, Johnny Ruffin, Jr., Darius Lampley & Sweet Harmony of St. Louis, Missouri, Sister Sharon Mason of Hampton, the Holy Temple Male Chorus of Norfolk, Children of the King from New Jersey, Val Spence & the Family Aires of Newport News, Favor of Virginia Beach, and Danny Hill & Group Determination of Chesapeake.

The Word Singers’ performance closed out the event. Word Singers’ members James Hinton and Frankie Davis thanked the New Journal and Guide for covering this event. They also thanked their fans in the Hampton Roads gospel music community for supporting their musical ministry for the past 38 years.

Fully Committed
Sister Sharon Mitchell

By Randy Singleton
Community Affairs Correspondent

As we continue our celebration of Fearless Fathers With Faith, I encourage fathers and surrogate fathers not to get weary in well doing. Raising children can be challenging and sometimes thankless, but keep at it! The payoff of seeing your children enter adulthood – focused, responsible and respective – make it all worthwhile.

Here are a few parenting tips to help new fathers and to encourage others.

Spend quality time with your children. The time fathers spend with their children shows them that they are important to you. If your life is busy and you don’t have much free time, make sure that the time you do spend with them is special, undivided, quality time.

Be a role model. Children do what they see, not what we say. Girls who spend time with loving fathers grow up seeking relationships with boys and men who treat them with love and respect. Fathers have the ability to teach their children what is important in life by demonstrating honesty, humility and responsibility.

Discipline with love. Every child needs positive guidance and discipline. Discipline that is administered in a calm and fair manner reinforces the love you have for your children.
Eat and pray together as a family. An important part of healthy family life is bonding that occurs through family meals and prayer. Dining together provides structure and a good opportunity for fathers to listen to and be involved in the lives of their children. Praying together reinforces your faith and demonstrates godliness to your children.

Earn the right to be heard. Start conversations with your children about important topics when they are young so that difficult subjects will be easier to broach as they get older. Listen to your child’s ideas and concerns.

Respect your child’s other parent. Divorce and separation are realities of life, but even when parents live together, fathers should help provide a secure environment for children. When children see parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel that they are also accepted and respected within the father-child relationship.

Teach; don’t preach. Teach your children about right and wrong. Use every day life experiences to help children learn some basic life lessons. Don’t be afraid to be transparent with your children. Let them see you as the imperfect being that we all are.

This month we honor Fearless Fathers With Faith! Be encouraged, and be present!

”Peace and power.

© Dr. Melvin O. Marriner,
Grove Church
June 2017

G Fest Productions held its Heaven International Gospel Fest in Portsmouth on Saturday (June 3) at 2603 Chestnut St. The event was hosted by local gospel radio personality Brother Donald L. Eason. The spiritual-praise concert was co-headlined by the Hurdle Brothers of Portsmouth and the Singing Pastors of New Jersey. Other regional and local gospel artists included Elder Ronnie Harper and the Harmonizing Echoes, the Word Singers, the Wings of Faith, Evangelist Picket & the Picket Singers, and the Spiritual Crowns. The event’s organizers, Apostle Robert & Patricia Hurdle, thanked the New Journal and Guide for covering this event. Apostle Robert Hurdle announced an upcoming concert for August 13 featuring the Hurdle Brothers, SW Washington & Favor, God’s Boyz, the Bland Boys, and the Word Singers. Food will be sold.

For more information, please contact Apostle Robert L. Hurdle at 757-543-1013.

By Randy Singleton
Community Affairs Correspondent

During June, we honor and celebrate fathers and surrogates fathers. I sometimes chide my congregation about the fact that mothers are celebrated, and wined and dined on Mother’s Day, but fathers get the short end of the stick. While mothers are showered with gifts of love and accolades, fathers get a necktie – maybe! Joking aside, as the father of four boys, I can tell you that my heart swells with pride knowing that I played an active role in their lives. Watching them grow up to become responsible adults, finding and responding to their life’s purpose, and witnessing them blossom into caring, responsible young men, warms my heart and is a gift from God.

It’s unfortunate that some of our young men (and women), will never know the love of their fathers – for whatever reason. But, there is good news! When we give our lives over to Christ, each of us can experience the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father! Earthly fathers are important, but each of us has the opportunity to know Christ – the heavenly Father – and the greatest love of all.

Few events change a man’s life as much as becoming a father – be it biological or through surrogacy. The awesome responsibility of parenting a child and being entrusted to care for another individual is a daunting but rewarding task. I can assure you though, that there is no greater joy than seeing your children grow into adulthood, and having them return the love that you have shown them in good measure.

To all the men who are biological fathers, or who have stepped up and stepped in to take the places of fathers, I salute you and thank you! You are an important part of your child’s life. I encourage you to continue to press forward, guided by God’s grace and love.

”Peace and power.

© Dr. Melvin O. Marriner,
Grove Church
June 2017

Moody Monthly published an interview with a young, successful attorney who said: “The greatest gift I ever received was when my dad gave me a small box one Christmas. Inside the box was a note that read, ‘Son, this year I will give you 365 hours—an hour every day after dinner. It’s yours. We’ll talk about what you want to talk about, we’ll go where you want to go, play what you want to play. It will be your hour!’ My dad not only kept his promise,” he said, “but every year he renewed it—and it’s the greatest gift I ever had in my life. I am the result of his time.”

This month, as we honor fathers and surrogate fathers, the gift of time is one of the most precious gifts a father can give to his children. Moms are there to birth, nurture and love their children, but there is no replacing, negating or displacing the significant benefits of a child growing up with the love, guidance and protection of a father. More than 20 documented studies confirm the positive impact that a father has on his children. Overall, these studies corroborate that fathers who take on active roles in parenting children reduce the frequency of behavioral problems in boys and psychological problems in young women. They also validate that fathers have a positive effect on cognitive development, along with decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low-income families.

While the research has been done to confirm the important role fathers play in their children’s lives, it’s not earth-shattering news. Many of us hold dear to our hearts, fond memories of time spent with our fathers—or those who stood in the gap for fathers— and the imprint they have left on our hearts and made in our lives. We don’t need anyone to quantify or qualify for us the sometimes unspoken bond that sons have for the men in their lives that they look up to—be it their biological fathers, grandfathers, uncles, or even coaches. We have all seen little girls grow up seeking husbands who mirror the characteristics they grew up admiring in the men they called dads.

Unfortunately—these days—if we were to believe everything we read or see in the media, our young African American boys are ALL growing up fatherless. And, while in every ethnic group there are some dads who, for whatever reason, are absent from their children’s lives, there are also even more tremendous dads; dads who not only stepped up, but sacrificed, prayed for and helped usher their children into adulthood successfully. This month, let’s celebrate and honor those fearless fathers with faith!

”Peace and power.

© Dr. Melvin O. Marriner,
Grove Church
June 2017

A group of visitors once asked an eighty-two-year-old his age. After answering their question he said, “I’m going to live until I die. And then I’m going to live forever!”

Is it possible that he had Psalm 84 in mind and was reflecting on the words of the psalmist: “They go from strength to strength – or they make their way – till each appears before God.”

God expects us to care for our bodies – He created them and entrusted them to us to do His work well. The story is told of two camels who deeply loved their masters.

While carrying their cargoes across the desert one decided that he would eat little so he could save his master money. He soon became weak and disoriented and thieves took advantage of his master when he died – beating him and taking the cargo. The other cared for both his master and his strength. He ate wisely and passed triumphantly across the desert.

We weaken ourselves spiritually by not nourishing ourselves with “soul-food” – God’s Word. Because God made us for Himself, we must bring His life into our life through the Word of Life – Christ our Lord. He alone can satisfy the hunger in our hearts and the longing in our souls.

Jesus met these needs when He said, “I am the Bread of Life! No one coming to me will ever be hungry again. And those who believe in Me will never thirst, either.”

Age does not matter. Life does. And life begins with the Lord. Believe in Him! He will nourish body and soul.
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Most of us can thank our mothers for the faith that we have today. Many of us have had the privilege and blessing of watching our mothers and surrogate mothers read the bible and engage in prayer. Some of us hold dear to our hearts, memories of them teaching us Scripture, or praying with us at night as we prepare to bed. While we may have walked away from that faith at some point in our lives, like the prodigal son, most of us return ‘home’ to the faithful foundation that is rooted in our upbringing.

Without a doubt, our mothers helped shape who we are today. We learned from the examples they set, as well as from their mistakes. Moreover, as some of us struggle to raise our own children today, we now have a greater appreciation of the challenges they faced raising us.

There are those among us today that feel especially blessed for the upbringing we had and for having had mothers in our lives; we have a great appreciation for the love and sacrifices they made for us.

Raising a child is not an easy undertaking—in fact, sometimes it becomes all consuming, tiresome and bittersweet. It can be a painful experience to watch children going in a direction opposite of what we feel is best for them. And, were it not for the faithful prayers of many of our mothers, some of us know that our outcomes would have been vastly different.

Overwhelmed, there are mothers among us who gave their children over to the Lord—trusting Him for the outcome. Praying mothers know that they have God’s promise that if they raise and train children in the way they should go, when they are old they will not depart from them (Prov. 22:6). Though they may stray as trying to find their own way in life, they will return to what was instilled in them (2 Tim. 3:15). Those are promises from God!

Mothers and surrogates who are wise, kind and faithful to God stand on those promises. And because of them, many of us know what true love, faithfulness and strength looks like. We also understand the power of prayer because we have seen our mothers emerge victoriously through their faithful prayers.
”Peace and power.

© Dr. Melvin O. Marriner,
Grove Church
May 2017

A reader recently wrote and asked a question that many of us ask at one time or another: “If there is a God, and if He is a good and loving God, why does He allow sin and suffering?”

A simple answer is that God gave each of us the opportunity and responsibility to make and live with the consequences. But there is a liability that came with this freedom. Even though we can make a poor choice, God will not interfere with our freedom to make it. Unfortunately we all live with the choice that Adam and Eve made: it introduced sin into the world and we have to live with their choice.

But it seems that we all make decisions that are not in keeping with what is in our best interests. Consider the case history of Israel. The psalmist wrote, “My people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts.”

Without choice there could be no love or liberty, grace or goodness, caring or compassion. We are free to choose what is right and righteous or what is destructive and devastating. This is true of individuals and nations alike. We have sin and suffering because of wrong choices.

And why do we make wrong choices? Again our psalmist has the answer: “If my people would but listen to me…I would subdue their enemies.”

Whenever we walk in our own ways, individually or as a nation, we will suffer from our “enemies” – whatever would defeat or destroy us. God allows us that choice.

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