Pastor Zenya

Haunted by God

Reverend Lynice Pinkard -- March 9, 2008

Scriptures for today:  John 11:1-45

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Pastor Lynice Pinkard is the first African American woman to be called as Senior Pastor at First Congregational Church of Oakland.

Pastor Lynice is the granddaughter of a German-American woman and an African American and Native American man who married in 1937—the era of Jim Crow and miscegenation laws—Reverend Lynice Pinkard was introduced early on to the possibility of deep solidarity across racial lines, even in the face of powerful state sanctions against it. This powerful witness has fueled her work to foster solidarity beyond identity politics by teasing out the interconnectedness of forms of suffering and injustice.

Lynice was born in Santa Barbara, CA to Marquita Kinard and the late Reverend Daniel Pinkard. She grew up in Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri and finished high school at Skyline High School in Oakland, California, before attending the historically black Hampton University in Virginia.

As a result of her rich heritage in the A. M. E. church and the witness of her parents’ commitment to social justice and community service, Lynice developed very early in her life a keen awareness of and sensitivity to the ways in which disparities of power and forms of oppression affect the quality of the lives of many people in America and around the world. For the past twenty years, Reverend Pinkard has dedicated her life to the work of ministry: pastoring, community organizing and engagement, writing, advocacy, counseling and healing.

In 1991, she co-founded City of Refuge Church in San Francisco, where she helped LGBTQ people, mostly of African descent, integrate positive spiritual and sexual identities despite the pervasive homo-negativity in the Black church and many community contexts.

From City of Refuge, Lynice went on to get Master of Divinity and Master of Arts degrees from the Pacific School of Religion, as well as a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from California State University, Hayward. Much of her research and scholarship has focused on the ways that identity politics intersect with the orientation of communities toward systems of domination. Working in her own community of West Oakland, Lynice organized people to obtain basic services and served as a kind of community pastor to neighborhood residents.

At the same time, she worked for the San Francisco Department of Public Health counseling the families of victims of gun violence and other forms of trauma. Frustrated by the insufficiency of individual grief counseling in the face of the epidemic of violence in San Francisco’s southeast sector, Lynice developed a program to build the capacity of families and communities to grieve their individual and collective losses in a way that would deepen their resilience, be restorative for the community as a whole, and begin to build the public will to address the underlying causes of violence. She was asked to replicate this work in the Western Addition and to consult with people developing similar programs in other neighborhoods of the city.

Now the senior pastor of First Congregational Church of Oakland, Lynice is building an intercultural community committed to healing from and resisting the interwoven systems of domination, oppression, and repression and the alienation those systems foster—a broadly shared malady she calls “empire affective disorder.”