People define their spirituality, faith, and religion as being a process involving growth, addressing existential questions about meaning and sense in life, life satisfaction, well-being, a sense of purpose, hope, and optimism. During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and communities have started to explore more personal and collective connections with spiritual, faith, and religious resources as coping mechanisms. They seem to be a potential antidote that minimizes the consequences of anxiety, depression, and any other mental or physical stress caused during the coronavirus crisis.
In this context, the proposed panel and conversation series on spirituality, faith, and religion: creating a time and space for connection, wellness, and hope can be a tool for healthcare professionals, patients, family, and communities to reconnect with themselves, provide the most comprehensive care possible, benefit from spiritual practice, build social support, and share stories of hope and resilience.
Our community conversation series will offer comfort and safe space through structured and innovative conversation focusing on spiritual beliefs and coping. Activities facilitate verbal expression and appropriate social interaction and build a sense of belonging. We discuss activities and themes from these webinars within a recovery-oriented “emotion-focused coping” framework. A faith community member will lead this series.
Moderator: Thomas Burr, Community and Affiliate Relations Manager, NAMI Connecticut
Panelists for June 3rd, 2021
Pastor Marylin Rodriguez
Congregation: Church Oasis of Blessing Christian Center
Pastor Marilyn Rodriguez was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, and raised in a Christian home. In 1996, Pastor Rodriquez received her bachelor’s degree in visual arts and moved to New Britain, Connecticut, where she met her future husband, Jose Rodriguez. She has always been active in her church, and in 1999 she graduated from the Hispanic Bible Institute. In 2014, Pastor Rodriguez graduated from the Latin-American Bible Institute and went on to teach there for 2 years. For the last 8 years, she and her husband have worked at the Church Oasis of Blessing Christian Center. Pastor Rodriguez and her husband Jose have eight children.
Pastor Kelcy G. L. Steele
Congregation: Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church
A native of Rock Hill, South Carolina, Rev. Steele is the 43rd pastor of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church. He is author of the book The Sound of Revival: 7 Powerful Prophetic Proclamations, which explores prophetic preaching in the Wesleyan tradition. He earned his master of divinity degree at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, in 2018. Governor Ned Lamont appointed Pastor Steele to the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles in 2020. Pastor Steele is CEO of the Varick Center for Empowerment and an Imani Breakthrough Project Leader. He serves on the Board of Directors of Booker T. Washington Academy and is Cultural Ambassador of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation.
Pastor William L. Mathis
Congregation: Springs of Life-Giving Water Church (The Springs)
A native of Albany, Georgia, after graduating from Morehouse College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and accounting, Pastor Mathis joined the staff of the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control for the U. S. House of Representatives.
Afterwards, he pursued his interest in law at Boston College, earning his JD degree in 1989 and serving as the National Chair of the Black Law Students Association in the wake of increasing minority presence in the profession. He served first as a judicial law clerk and then as Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorney. While in these positions, he worked to ameliorate the plight of juvenile delinquents and to develop preventive programs and supporting environments. During this time, he was called to the ministry and began ministering through public policies. Before he entered Harvard University, he served as chaplain, counselor, and teacher at The Baraka School, a school for inner-city male youth based in Kenya, East Africa. Pastor Mathis received his MDiv from Harvard in 2002.
The Springs is an American Baptist Church in New Haven, Connecticut. Pastor Mathis seeks to help individuals view and develop each life experience as empowering and directional for their purposed lives as they become all that God intends. In line with his assignment, Pastor Mathis is CEO of WLM Ministries, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing consulting services to create community and faith-based initiatives focused on criminal justice, neighborhood safety, community building, youth empowerment, social justice, and African diaspora collaboration.
These are additional positions and affiliations for Pastor Mathis:
- Immediate past president, American Baptist Churches of Connecticut (ABCCONN), 2019–2020
- Member, Baptist World Alliance’s Justice and Freedom Commission
- Consultant, Brazilian faith-based communities and non-governmental organizations working to empower Afro-Brazilian communities
- Member, Kingdom Association of Covenant Pastors
- Founding and steering committee member, New Haven 828, an organization devoted to bringing pastors and para-church leaders together for prayer and the formation of collaborative initiatives to address social ills
- Advisory board member, New Haven’s Juvenile Review Board
- Member, New Haven’s Reentry Initiative Roundtable
- Member, New Haven Community Violence Response Group