LA Ronda D. Barnes
Preacher, Author, theologian, and Pastor of Affirmation Church,
A church without walls
It took building my own relationship with Christ in order for me to see and hear scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, for what it is: God's testament of faithfulness to and love for all of creation, a guide for us as to how to have a personal relationship with God and to build relationship with each other, and a living work that breathes new life into us every time we read it with open and loving hearts. The Gospels speak of affirmation. They call us to believe and trust in a God who dwelt among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who died for us, and who calls us to live as ones who have received unlimited love and grace. Jesus affirmed the gifts, value, and endless possibilities of every person he encountered. Christ continues to affirm our worth as children of God and to inspire us to share the love and grace we know with others - to strengthen them to live the lives God has created them to live. Yes, there is grief, pain, abuse, and evil in the world. Yes, we all have taken actions we have regretted, failed to act when we know we should have, been purveyors, whether in thought or deed, of prejudice and intolerance, and judged others without having a clue as to the lives they have led or felt trapped in living.
I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is God's own power for salvation to all who have faith in God, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Why did it take me so many years to be able to say this and to believe in my heart that it is true? Maybe because for so long I have seen and heard scripture used to tear people down, to shame them, to cause them to fear God, and to force them into boxes made by others.
As Christians, we are called to take ownership of every aspect of our lives, to use our experiences to help guide and comfort others, and to work together for the betterment of all humankind and all of God's creation. We live in a world in which our sisters and brothers cry out for healing, peace, and wholeness. While our minds have helped us to develop technology, explore venues, and adapt human and material resources in ways that generations past could not have imagined, we have failed to increase our capacity to understand each other, to forgive and reconcile, and to love. We must continue to strengthen and develop our minds but always with the awareness that the mind is only as worthy as the heart that guides it. Let us strive to be guided by hearts that have accepted and daily share the love of Christ.
La Ronda Barnes is an author, a preacher, and founding pastor of Affirmation Church. She is a graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology (Master of Theology [ThM], Master of Divinity [M.Div]), Columbia Theological Seminary (Master of Arts in Practical Theology [MAPT]), Yale Law School (J.D.), the University of Akron (B.A., English), and the University of Michigan (M.A., Journalism). Pastor La Ronda currently is pursuing a PhD in Practical Theology, concentrating in Homiletics with a certificate in Spirituality Studies at Boston University School of Theology.
Raised in the Christian faith, La Ronda left the institutional church in her pre-teens and converted to Reform Judaism in her mid-20s. For several years she was not involved with any faith community and only returned to the church in her early 30s after being invited to an adult Sunday School class by a friend. She subsequently was baptized and became an active member and disciple.
In 2008, La Ronda answered God's call to the ministry. Over the years, she has preached, pastored, lectured, and led study groups in denominational and non-denominational churches. La Ronda is now an independent pastor serving Affirmation Church, a church without walls, and espousing a faith of grace, passion, social justice and love. Affirmation began with weekly meetings in Fleming Island, Florida and now is a church without walls, with Pastor La Ronda serving parishioners wherever they may be as needed.
Prior to entering the ministry, La Ronda worked as an attorney serving as an administrative law judge, appellate court attorney, legal aid attorney, and law professor. She was the first female of the African diaspora to be elected as chair of the American Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division in its 75 year history. As leader of the 150,000 member volunteer association, La Ronda promoted its public service and professional development programs and served as its spokesperson at conferences around the world.
An avid traveler, La Ronda has visited the countries of Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, and Sweden as well as 44 of the 50 states in the U.S.