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The sign of the cross, the iconic symbol for Christianity, points in two directions - up towards God and out across the world - and represents a basic theme in the Biblical story, according to the subject of the sermon the Rev. Paul Roberts will preach at 10:30 a.m. on July 9 in Montreat’s Anderson Auditorium.

“I plan to focus on relationships - the God-to-humankind relationship and the humankind-to-humankind relationship,” said Roberts, president of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta.

Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary is one of 10 theological schools of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the only one that is historically African American. Rev. Roberts, who grew up in Bradenton, Florida, is a 1985 graduate of Princeton University with a BA in architecture and African American Studies. Prior to his career in ministry, he spent eight years in advertising in New York City.

After deciding to change careers, he earned his MDiv degree with a concentration in New Testament studies from Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. Roberts is also an Academic Fellow of The Ecumenical Institute at Bossey in Celigny, Switzerland.

Montreat Conference Center is sponsoring several events Saturday, July 8 in celebration of Roberts’ visit and of the 150th anniversary of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary. At 7 p.m. in Upper Anderson, Roberts will give an introduction to the seminary, with a period for questions and answers. At 7:30 p.m. there will be a song festival that features a celebration choir, visual art, and congregational singing of hymns that speak to the relationship among worship, justice, and service.

Festival leaders include Tony McNeill, director of worship and the arts at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and Eric Wall, assistant professor and dean of the chapel at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Texas and director of music for Montreat Conference Center’s summer worship series.

As part of the series, the Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity is leading a Visio Divina class from 9-10 a.m. July 9, 16, and 23 in the Walkup Building.

Latin for "divine seeing," Visio Divina extends the 6th century Benedictine practice of Lectio Divina by using visual imagery for meditation, reflection, and prayer.

“Participants will use visual art to delve deeper into the scripture texts for Sunday worship," Garrity said. "Illuminations from the St. John's Bible will be incorporated when applicable. Sessions will blend individual meditation with group study and discussion.”

As an artist, pastor and retreat leader, Garrity works with communities of all kinds across the nation, using art as a means for deeper connection to faith and community. She is the founder and creative director of A Sanctified Art, a collaborative arts ministry providing multimedia resources for churches.

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