Thrive
Podcast

Overview

Today on the podcast, we have a great conversation with Rev. Donna Covington, Vice President of Formation at Asbury Seminary. We talk about racism, justice and reconciliation. She shares her personal story of her son Daniel who was killed in a racially motivated incident on September 16, 2010. As she shares her story, we talk about the hope and healing that she has found and some steps that you and I can take to bring justice and reconciliation to the communities in which we live.

Let’s listen!

Rev. Donna Covington, Vice President of Formation

Rev. Donna Covington serves as the Vice President of Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary. She is a highly accomplished senior leader with experience in both corporate and higher education with a heart for ministry. Corporately, she has extensive proficiency and expertise in organizational development, strategic planning and change management. She has a proven track record for problem solving and bringing organizations and groups together. Rev. Covington has led global organizations and traveled extensively to more than 30 countries in her various roles at IBM and Lexmark International, Inc. She brings a global perspective along with knowledge and understanding of diversity and cultural complexities to her work.

Rev. Covington’s experience also extends into executive church leadership and higher education where she has been a change agent and innovator. She served as executive director for several churches, interim Dean of the College of Business and Computer Science at Kentucky State University and most recently, Dean of the College of Business at Delaware State University (DSU), where she was able to establish partnerships with business and economic leaders, community organizations and students to increase student retention, mentorship and career placement.

Rev. Covington has held a number of board positions and has been recognized both locally and nationally with several leadership awards, most recently a 2018 prestigious award from Girls, Inc. of Delaware. She has also conducted numerous workshops and conferences locally and internationally. She was Ordained an Elder at First Pilgrim Baptist Church. She possesses a B.S. degree in Chemistry from Centre College, M.S. in Analytical Chemistry from Miami University, and an M.A. in Christian Leadership from Asbury Theological Seminary.

Rev. Covington is the mother of three children and grandmother to three beautiful girls.

Heidi Wilcox, host of the Thrive Podcast

Writer, podcaster, and social media manager, Heidi Wilcox shares stories of truth, justice, healing and hope. She is best known as the host of Spotlight, (especially her blooper reel) highlighting news, events, culturally relevant topics and stories of the ways alumni, current students and faculty are attempting something big for God. If you can’t find her, she’s probably cheering on her Kentucky Wildcats, enjoying a cup of coffee, reading or spending time with her husband, Wes.



Transcript

Heidi Wilcox:
Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week’s episode of the Thrive with Asbury Seminary podcast. I’m your host, Heidi E. Wilcox, bringing you conversations with authors, thought leaders, and people just like you who are looking to connect where your passion meets the world’s deep needs.

Heidi Wilcox:
Today, on the podcast, we have a great conversation with Reverend Donna Covington, the Vice President of Formation at Asbury Seminary. We talk about racism, justice, and reconciliation. She shares with us her personal story of her son, Daniel, who on September 16, 2010, was killed in a racially motivated incident. As she shares her story, we talked about the hope and healing that she has found and some steps that you and I can take to bring justice and reconciliation to the communities in which we live. So, let’s listen.

Heidi Wilcox:
Donna, today, I’m just really delighted to get to talk to you, and today, we’re going to be talking about some difficult issues with racism and things like that. And unfortunately, it’s still a very timely issue with the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, but you’ve had your own experience with a racially-motivated altercation. So, today, I was wondering if you would mind telling us the story of what happened to your son, Daniel, on September 16th, 2010.

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, Heidi, first of all, thank you for inviting me to do this podcast with you, and you’re right. These are difficult topics to talk about, but they need to be spoken about.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And as you say, with this recent shooting of Jacob Blake, it just doesn’t seem to be going away.

Heidi Wilcox:
No.

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, thank you for the opportunity to share a little bit of my own personal story and share it from my perspective.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Because as you know in all of these things, we all bring different perspectives. But on September 15th-

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, was it the 15th? Okay.

Rev. Donna Covington:
No. You have it right.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, okay.

Rev. Donna Covington:
On September 15th, I was expecting a call in the wee hours of the morning because my daughter-in-law had gone to the hospital, and she was in labor. So, I was expecting to get a call from my son announcing the birth of my first granddaughter on September 16th.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And I did receive a phone call in the wee hours of the morning, but it wasn’t the call I expected. It was a call from a hospital in Louisville that said my son, Daniel, had been shot, and could I get to Louisville as quickly as possible? And of course, that’s what I did.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
I had no idea what his state was. I just know he had been shot, and of course, I’m driving to Louisville where I was, my nephew was driving me to Louisville, with the hope that he was in surgery. But when I get to the hospital and asked about Daniel, of course, they take me in the little room, and I find out that Daniel’s been killed.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And that’s all I know.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
I know it’s some sort of incident. They’re not telling me anything, and all I know is Daniel’s been killed.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And so, on the way home, it is actually on the news that I get to find out some of the details-

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, my.

Rev. Donna Covington:
… that it was racially-motivated incident, and I’m going to put a pin here and come back to it. And they had already declared that it was a shooting under the Castle Law.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh.

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, they had already made a determination. But as time went by, after we were able to process our way through the funeral and the burial and all of that, I obtained an attorney just like you see most people doing now because immediately, I started to receive phone calls from a detective at the Louisville Police Station. So, Daniel was killed in Louisville.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And the detective was telling me all these stories about Daniel which made no sense to me. So, to give you just a view of who my son was, he was just … He was a football player at the University of Louisville. He had graduated in December. He had gone off to camp at Arizona to train for the NFL Combine.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, wow. That’s awesome.

Rev. Donna Covington:
He didn’t do great at the Combine, so he was starting to look at some of the other smaller leagues and had just gotten an agent to try out again for the NFL. That was his dream to play football at that level, and so he had all of his life in front of him with all of his dreams.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And Daniel was the sort of young man … I mean, Heidi, there were, I don’t know, over a thousand people at Daniel’s funeral.

Heidi Wilcox:
Wow.

Rev. Donna Covington:
He was very outgoing. He was very social, and people just loved him.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And so, I couldn’t imagine what had happened that ended up in Daniel being killed.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. Did you ever find out what did happen?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Well, in some ways, yes. So, I hired an attorney. It was Steve Pence, who was an ex-Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, and we also hired an ex-FBI agent, who could start to help us try to recreate the scene and figure out what was had gone on. But the story that Isaiah Howes, who the young man was that killed Daniel, and his cousin was that Daniel had reached into the car on the passenger side to hit Isaiah Howes’ cousin. Well, Daniel, that’s out of character for him, so he would only do that for a reason. Well, we soon found out that Isaiah Howes and his cousin were using racial words with him.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And they had pulled up to a stoplight. I guess Daniel pulls in behind them. These are the wee hours of the morning, and Daniel does get out of the car to have you can imagine. “Hey, why are you calling me this?”

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
“Hey, man,” and he reaches in the car to hit the guy in the passenger seat, and the driver, who was Isaiah Howes, pulls out a gun and shoots him and kills him.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hmm.

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, obviously, Daniel was unarmed, and-

Heidi Wilcox:
Right.

Rev. Donna Covington:
… was not … That altercation wasn’t expected to end that way.

Heidi Wilcox:
No.

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, in the days ahead, our work was to find out what happened.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Why didn’t Isaiah Howes pull off? There was no traffic. Why didn’t he just put his foot on the gas? He had told a story about the gun being in the glove compartment, and he had to reach across. And we come to find out from the guy who was the ex-FBI agent that he was sitting at that stoplight with this gun in his lap.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh. So-

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, he very much had intent to kill Daniel on that day.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, you said you found out on the news that they were already declaring it self-defense. Doesn’t that seem, I don’t know a whole lot about how the process works, but doesn’t that seem a little quick that within the time you found out, went to the hospital, and then listened to the news that that was what was being said?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Right, Heidi. So, and this is what you can vet these things by just looking at the articles.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
But that’s, remember, this is September 16th, 2010, so this is kind of the first time we’re starting to see these racial-motivated killings.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And as we started to dig that out and dig around in that, we started to find things out like this. So, from two different perspectives, the young man in the car had marijuana and had open containers. And again, if I hadn’t hired some investigator, we would’ve never known that. That never came out.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
But it eventually came out because he found the evidence. They wanted to make Daniel out to be a thug. I told you he had been training in Arizona, and they wanted to say he was on steroids, which was trying to say he was kind of mad and wild.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
Uh-huh (affirmative). So, we sent the investigator to the police station, to the medical examiner, and said, “That’s just not true. You can’t. We’ll sue you for saying things like that because it’s not true.” Then, we started to see the news, what they were reporting to the news chains. But what the justice system would not do is bring any charges against either one of those young men.

Heidi Wilcox:
Wow.

Rev. Donna Covington:
They were not put in jail. They were not held, and they declared it so quickly that there weren’t going to be any charges to come against them. And you and I both know had the situation been reversed and a young African-American man had killed a young white guy, it would not have occurred like that, and that’s some of the injustice that we’re talking about with Jacob Blake and some of these recent deaths that we’ve seen over the past six months or so.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). How long then did you … Because you hired the FBI agent. You hired a detective. How long did you work to try to get justice for Daniel?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yeah. It probably took us a year because the way the justice system works is a district attorney has to bring charges.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, okay.

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, that’s the only way someone gets charged, so when we looked at the case of Breonna Taylor, the issue is is that no charges had been brought by the district attorney.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, okay.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And as you know, it’s with the attorney general now, and still no charges brought against anyone involved. So, we worked. I had Steve Pence and the investigator. I hired another attorney, who was an ex, retired, Supreme Court judge, and he brought his law clerk.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, I have a team of three attorneys and an investigator working to push the district attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, to bring charges. If the district attorney brings charges, then you can bring it over to a grand jury.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, okay.

Rev. Donna Covington:
The grand jury will hear it, and they will make a decision if it goes to trial or not.

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And that’s the injustice that I think we’re talking about during this time is that when there are no charges, the justice system that’s been created doesn’t have a chance to work.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
We don’t get to hear all the evidence. The facts don’t come out for the public, and so there’s never … The wheels of justice don’t turn.

Heidi Wilcox:
Right.

Rev. Donna Covington:
They don’t turn for many of these African-American cases that we’re talking about.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
We saw that in the Trayvon Martin case where it went to a grand jury, and even though he was charged, the grand jury wouldn’t hand it over to a trial. So, oftentimes, you’ll see these families, these mothers just going through this long, drawn-out process trying to bring charges against the accusers of people that have killed their children.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. It would be going through a living hell I would imagine.

Rev. Donna Covington:
It is going through a living hell.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Because when you know … I knew, even though I thought I’d hired the best attorney, somewhere in me, I knew the system was not going to work for me because I was an African American, a black.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). What is that like to know that but to work so hard to have the justice that you need?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Well, you don’t have any choice but work because my son would’ve done it for me.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And because I would’ve done anything in this world for my son, for my child.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And if I wasn’t going to push, then who would push?

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, we did everything we knew how from a criminal case. We tried to get the FBI to pick it up for a federal case, and we tried to bring a civil case. Even though this young man really didn’t have anything, we wanted it in the record that we were pushing this way. And again, the point I want to make from that side of the story is really that’s the injustice. Heidi, had the racial lines been different, if an African-American man had killed a white guy, they would automatically take him to jail. You saw that in the Breonna Taylor case when her fiancé shot the policeman, they took him to jail. They didn’t ask any questions. They just assumed he was guilty.

Heidi Wilcox:
Right.

Rev. Donna Covington:
In this case, it was assumed that these guys were not guilty. We tried to get … There were cameras on that corner. There were actually three city cameras, and we found out that they said none of them were working. There was no tape.

Heidi Wilcox:
Wow. None of them were working?

Rev. Donna Covington:
None of them were working that night. So, the City of Louisville had three cameras on three different buildings none of which worked, so it didn’t take very long to see the police were working with Isaiah Howes’ family to stack the deck.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And that’s the injustice that people feel and sense that you see the protests around that people want righted. They just want to say, “Hey, we want to see someone charged so the justice system can work and that it works for everybody and not just certain people.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Exactly. How do these different racial incidents that have been happening, most recently with Jacob Blake, how do they affect you different? I would imagine they affect you differently than they do other people. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Well, of course. So, every time we see something like this happens, it affects me in several different ways. One way is my heart breaks for these mothers because no one wants to see a mother go to cemetery to begin with, and thankfully, we’re praying that Jacob Blake will recover, that he’ll be okay. But I think the second way it affects me is it’s like, “How long, oh, Lord?”

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
We see this over and over and over again, so, “How long, oh, Lord, before you’ll bring justice to our country?” So, I feel that lament and grief that we all process and go through, and I think that we start to see it in the third piece that hurt … I love that we can do some non-violent protests.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
But then, it hurts to see the violence and the destruction. But in some ways, people are crying out saying, “If you won’t hear us in the justice system, if you won’t give us a hearing in a court and in what it was intended for, you give us no choice but to try to cry out in other ways.” So, I mean I think it affects me in different ways.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. That makes sense.

Rev. Donna Covington:
But particularly, my heart goes out to these mothers.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, for sure. As you’ve … It’s been almost 10 years since Daniel was killed.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Heidi Wilcox:
How have you found hope while you, at the same time, lived with justice that was never served?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yeah. That’s a great question, Heidi, because when I think about hope, hope is God’s idea. This is not an idea we invented, and we have hope in Christ. We have hope in God that He is a just God.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
We have hope that He will make every wrong right, and it’s not just the hope of His justice, but it also starts to center around the characteristics that we have as Christians, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, we hope. We forgive. We love. We have those characteristics. When I think about injustice, injustice really is the result of fallen humanity.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hmm. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
It’s not God’s best. It’s not what He intended, and injustice has never been His intent. When I look at these words together in Scripture, I find justice and righteousness married together, particularly at the Cross.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And that is what gives us hope. That’s what gives me hope of it’s a formation process. “God, how can I become more like you?” And we all do that every day. How can we become more like Jesus in the face of things that may have happened to us that aren’t right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
I mean Jesus clearly tells us in the Book of John, “In this world, you’ll have trials and tribulations but be of good cheer because I’ve overcome the world.” That’s our hope.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
That because of the work of Christ and the redemption work that He satisfied the justice of God and He gives us His righteousness, it gives us hope.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. But it’s sometimes, I would imagine, hard to wait on that justice that is coming one day down the road. At least that would be for me.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yeah. And that’s true. I don’t want you to believe for a second that there aren’t days even now, every time I hear about one of these, it’s a day where I say, “Oh, Lord.” You want to take these things into your own hands just as they’ve done, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yet these people have no right to take a life. We’re built in the image of God, so never in Scripture are we given a right to take someone else’s life or to snuff it out.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And I won’t tell you that there aren’t days where I feel like this isn’t right. It should be different and all the things that we’re talking about. But then, I’m challenged to set my mind on things above.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
Paul says again in his writing, “And these are choices that we get to make.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yeah. So-

Heidi Wilcox:
What does it look like for you to set your mind on things above? Because we say that, but I’m not exactly sure how to do that. So, what does that look like for you?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yeah. So, it’s choices we get to get up in the morning, I think, Heidi, and make. So, I can get up in the morning and say, “Isn’t the world a dark place?” Or I can-

Heidi Wilcox:
And it is.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And it is. Or I could get up in the morning and say, “I’m going to serve the Lord with gladness. I’m going to come into His presence with thanksgiving. I’m going to focus my eyes on who He is. I’m going to see Him in all His majesty and glory. Going to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.” Heidi, when we go down that path, it’ll change us.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
It doesn’t just change what comes out of our mouth. It changes our spirits. It begins to change our minds. You know what I’m talking about, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes. Yes, I do.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And so, we choose to exercise that place of formation, of being with God, of being in His presence as opposed to, keeping our eyes set there, as opposed to looking at politics or looking at the awful things that are going on in the world. We’re not stupid people. We know these things are going on, but we go to God and say, “Lord, in Your presence is the fullness of joy, so how will we process our way through what You’ve given our hands to do? How will Donna do that? How will Heidi do that?”

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
“What are You calling us to?”

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
Reconciliation’s God’s idea. Again, we didn’t come up with that.

Heidi Wilcox:
So, what does, as a seminary, as a community, and even for our lives personally, what are some of the first steps that we can take on the journey to reconciliation? Because it’s not just saying, “I’m sorry,” and things are fine. So, what can we do? I guess we can start personally because that’s where we all start.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Right.

Heidi Wilcox:
So, what are some things that we can do personally to take those first steps toward reconciliation?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Well, Heidi, I just finished reading a book several weeks ago a friend had recommended to me called “Be the Bridge.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, my gosh. I read that one this summer, too. I loved it.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Okay. I love, and I don’t know if you paid any attention, but it just made it to the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And I think that Latasha Morrison lays out an amazing journey for us through or to racial reconciliation, that we begin at that place of lament and be in it. And Dr. Tennent has written a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful pastoral letter that lays out a lot of this process that we begin with lament and just saying, “I’m sorry. God forgive me.” A place of forgiveness and grief and we see that in the Psalms. So, what are some of the things we can do personally and then in our community? I think as we start to, we begin to educate ourselves on how do, how can we work our way through this?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Jesus commands us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves, so I want to see us personally start to speak out. Let’s speak out for justice and what’s right. And you say, “But, Donna, I’m not sure exactly I know what that means.” Well, we have to learn how to lead change. How do we help? You’ve read the book.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
How do we help people? How do we help ourselves and others go on a journey for being more like what Jesus prayed for, that place of unity? In John 17, in that prayer, Heidi, we see Jesus saying, “Lord, make them want so that the world will know that you sent me.” We’ve become models and examples of modeling the Kingdom.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, we have to learn how to speak for what’s right and what’s just in our personal lives. I think in our seminary community, we have this amazing faculty, and it’s my prayer.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, we do.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And we’re starting to see some of our faculty write articles and blogs, and they’re speaking. And Craig Keener, they’re writing books. So, you see Craig Keener. I saw an article from one of our faculty members in ESJ, so I think as a seminary community, we have the answer. We have the theological framework to think our way through this, and we also have the feeling of the Holy Spirit, so we can think theologically. We can listen intently, and I pray the result of that is our behavior changes-

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, definitely.

Rev. Donna Covington:
… that we begin to walk individually and as a seminary community into a place of racial reconciliation, and this our call. It’s our call to be obedient, humble, and obedient, so on.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
Those are a few ideas I think of things that we can do personally and that we can do as a community.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, yeah. That definitely gets us started on the right path to be on the journey, and I also think that the theme the seminary is doing this year on discipleship and Dr. Tennent talking about the theology of the body and how we’re all made in the image of God is really applicable to racism and racial reconciliation.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. So, as I was thinking about that, I was thinking about the verse Micah 6:8 talking about doing justice and living mercy and walking humbly. What does that mean for the Asbury Seminary community as we seek to live out that verse and do justice and love mercy with humbleness?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yeah. I mean again, you’re asking some great, probing questions, and one of the things that I love about being at the seminary, again, is it helps us with what lens do we view Scripture through, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Our experiences certainly paint how we view and how we read a Scripture, so one of the ways we learn as the seminary is can we theologically think our way through what God is talking about in Micah 6:8?

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, okay.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And what, who’s He speaking to? Who’s He writing to? What’s the message that He’s giving in that context in that community? And then, how do we bring that into the New Testament, into what we’ve seen when God incarnate, when He takes on a body and comes to this world around justice and mercy and righteousness? So, theologically, we’re being taught at the seminary on how to think through that.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And then, it also brings me back to, I guess, the point I just made before on and can we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit on these issues? The Holy Spirit speaks, so when we talk about our mission statement, we talk about Spirit-filled.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And as Spirit-filled believers, can we hear the voice of God, the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking into Scripture-

Heidi Wilcox:
Wow.

Rev. Donna Covington:
… speaking into our lives? And you and I both know, Heidi, the answer to that is, “Yes.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, definitely. We just have to listen.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And so, at the seminary, look at this great opportunity we have to think theologically. When we’re talking about theology of the body, we’re giving our mind to God.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hmm, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And to listen intently through the Holy Spirit, we’re given our spirits, and we’re going to sit in His presence. So, of course, Dr. Tennent’s going to teach on this this year, but we begin to give God our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. So, when we’re seeking out the work of justice and mercy in Micah 6:8, we want to take on God’s characteristics, His attributes, and we get there, Heidi, and we say, “Lord, more of You and less of me.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
That’s the formational journey.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
How do we have more of Jesus and less of me so that I can love the things that God loves? I can think the way that He thinks. Isn’t that something?

Heidi Wilcox:
That is something. That’s really exciting. So, we’re recording before this semester has even started, but I didn’t know if there were specific things along the lines of racial reconciliation that were already planned that we could talk just a little bit about and get excited about.

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, again, we are … I’m really grateful to be here at Asbury at this time. Dr. Tennent, our President, has taken on racial reconciliation and some of the injustice things very seriously during this time, and so while we may not have specific, concrete plans that we’re going to be rolling out in the fall yet, we are having a lot of discussions-

Heidi Wilcox:
Hmm. That’s good.

Rev. Donna Covington:
… as a Cabinet, as a team, and we want to have … It’s not just what does the President and the Cabinet want around racial reconciliation, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Right.

Rev. Donna Covington:
It really, as we come back into the semester, how do we get more voices involved? How do we hear the voice of our faculty and the voice of our students and our staff and so on into who we want to be as a seminary around racial reconciliation? So, Heidi, I think it’s really exciting that we’re going to be wading further into this space. I think Dr. Tennent, if he was speaking into this question, I think he’d tell you that the Board of Trustees is on board.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hmm, yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
That we’re all spending some time thinking through how Asbury might be a better place, that we might have a better culture, that we might lead in the areas of racial reconciliation.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hmm, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
And let me just say Asbury’s not just staring this journey.

Heidi Wilcox:
Right.

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, I’ve loved that Dr. Tennent has sent me personally and to others minutes out of the archives, where back in the ’40s, the trustees and the faculty were making statements about racial reconciliation. I mean John Wesley was making statements about race and the importance of valuing every person, everyone as an image bearer of God.

Rev. Donna Covington:
In the ’60s, our Maxie Dunnam was marching in the protests, so we kind of have that history. And then, now, we get to where are we in 2020? Well, we have the first African-American chair with the Board of Trustees of Asbury.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
We have Jessica’s the First Dean of Chapel. Even though that’s not necessarily about racial reconciliation, it’s still about how do we make our environment an environment of inclusion where all people are valued?

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), right. We’re having Dr. Pohl on the podcast in a couple later episodes talking about hospitality, and it goes along with what you’re talking about with inviting people in who might not otherwise have a place.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Right, and giving them a seat at the table and not just a seat at the table, but a voice at the table.

Heidi Wilcox:
A voice, yeah, yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
They-

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s what I was trying to say, yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
And so, you start. We just had our, the last three board members that came on in May, as you know, Heidi, were all African American, so I’m excited to be at the seminary at this place in time and to see the seminary’s willingness to walk into these places. That’s not just the Board and Dr. Tennent, but it’s the faculty. It’s the staff. It’s the leadership of the seminary. People like you, Heidi, who are saying, “You know? We can be better.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
As Christians, we can walk differently. We can do something different, and we can lead rather than having politics and the culture lead us.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hmm, yeah, definitely.

Rev. Donna Covington:
The Church can lead rather than being led by the world, so-

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. And I want to make sure-

Rev. Donna Covington:
… but, you know-

Heidi Wilcox:
I’m sorry. Go ahead. I interrupted you. It’s harder when we’re doing it remotely, so go ahead.

Rev. Donna Covington:
I know, right? Well, I just I didn’t give you anything specific that we’re going to be doing, but I am confident that the seminary’s going to be wading out into this water to make a difference.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, definitely.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Not only for our students, but in the Wesleyan world.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, and I want to make sure that we mention the four part series called The Community Conversations on Race that you led earlier this summer as a great resource for people to go ahead and check out because we’ve re-released them in podcast format as well, so we’ll link to those in the show notes so people can check those out if they want to.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Great.

Heidi Wilcox:
So, as we wrap up, Donna, I think we’ve talked about a lot of things, but is there anything else you want to talk about that I didn’t ask already?

Rev. Donna Covington:
You know, Heidi? You asked some deep probing, great questions, and then I just want to end on this note of what we see in the Book of Revelation, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
We see people from every tribe in every nation in their own tongue praising God, so we’re seeking as we walk through this not to change who people are because we are different and we are diverse. But what we’re seeking to change around racial reconciliation is that we live in a place of the justice of God along with the mercy of God along with the grace of God and His love, that we aren’t letting one go at the price of another.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, I’m grateful to be at Asbury and be at this place as we begin to lead change and make a difference for the world. So, I think I said that earlier, but it’s just what’s on my heart and what’s exciting about being at this place in this time.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, thank you, Heidi, for making [crosstalk 00:36:32] with this.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, you’re very welcome.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yeah.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. You’re very welcome, and you’re actually our first return guest onto the podcast, and so this’ll be the second time that you’ve had this question that we ask everybody. So, because the show is called the Thrive with Asbury Seminary podcast, what is one practice, it can be spiritual or otherwise, that is helping you thrive in your life right now?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Wow. Isn’t that a great question in life-

Heidi Wilcox:
Uh-huh (affirmative), right?

Rev. Donna Covington:
… with all that’s going on in the world right now, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Right, right?

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, we have COVID-19, which is isolating all of us and keeping us from being in community. We have all this racial unrest that’s been going on, well, I guess with Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery I guess it was like in March.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
We have a Presidential election coming up, and for-

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. There’s a whole lot.

Rev. Donna Covington:
There is a lot going on, Heidi, and I don’t know that, well, if I had to name one practice that’s helping me thrive right now, it would have to be practicing the presence of God. I mean, we don’t get to have the community as we know it, and I miss our community together because we were built for community.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
But it’s the presence of God and being in His presence and knowing that He’s with us and that He’s always present no matter how it looks or what. He’s always, Heidi, bending our ear, bending His ear to hear our cries.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, what-

Rev. Donna Covington:
That’s the one thing I think that has kept me going during this time, and I’m really excited about school starting again and that we get to get back together in community. But-

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes. So, if I could follow up with that question because I’m really curious. Because being in the presence of God as I’ve talked to different people sometimes, it comes up. I’m just curious about, and it looks different for lots of people. So, how does being in the presence of God look like for you?

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, for me, it’s a practice of getting … I’m an early morning person, so I like to get up early in the morning, and I have … I get coffee.

Heidi Wilcox:
I love coffee.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yeah.

Heidi Wilcox:
It’s a life saver.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yes, and I get to sit down with my best friend, and I get to listen. And after I listen, I get to talk with Jesus.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
But for me, I envision Jesus sitting and having coffee with me, and we engage in relationship. That’s where we spend time together.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
It’s not that I get to spend time with Jesus in the morning and have coffee and drop Him and start my day. No.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
It’s how I get to start my day. It’s how I get to this thing we talked about of hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s how we train our ears. I mean, how can I hear God if I don’t know Him, if I don’t spend time with Him?

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
So, it’s a contemplative practice that I like to use along with reading Scripture, having a devotional thought. We have some great devotionals, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rev. Donna Covington:
Some of the classic ones, Streams in the Desert, to some of the more contemporary, modern ones. So, that’s practicing the presence of God is what that means for me is that I get to get very quiet, and I get to be in God’s presence because He desires that.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
That’s a little bit around this justice and righteousness. He was the person of reconciliation. We fell out of favor in the garden, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Right, right.

Rev. Donna Covington:
It was God. Reconciliation’s His idea. He brought us back into fellowship so that we could be in His presence. We get to practice His presence and be with him, and that’s what those mornings are like for me, Heidi.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. I love that.

Rev. Donna Covington:
They keep me going.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah.

Rev. Donna Covington:
That without that time, I would be dry. I’d be dry and miserable, but it puts me on a different pathway. And it’s available for everybody because that’s what-

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes. Isn’t that the best part?

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yes. Isn’t that the best part? That unlike what we talked about with injustice and the fall of humanity where some systems are available to some and not to others.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). This is available to all.

Rev. Donna Covington:
This is available to everybody.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Whosoever will, let them come.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Okay.

Heidi Wilcox:
I love that.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Yeah.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes. I love that. So, Donna, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast today to share your story, and then for those of us who are saying, “I stand with you and want to take the next steps,” for helping us to learn so that we can start taking some next steps and do this well. I really appreciate it.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Thank you, Heidi, and thank you for the work that you’re doing with this podcast. And I want to say back to you as we’re in community, I stand with you.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh.

Rev. Donna Covington:
I stand in the brotherhood, the sisterhood of believers.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh.

Rev. Donna Covington:
Let’s stand together in unity in Christ.

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), thank you. You’re very kind. I appreciate it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hey, everyone, and thank you so much for joining me for today’s conversation with Donna. Listening and learning are some of the first steps that we can take to start bringing justice and reconciliation to our community. This conversation really mattered to me, and I hope it did for you as well.

Heidi Wilcox:
As always, you can follow us in all the places on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @asburyseminary. Thanks for listening and go do something that helps you thrive.