Rev. Ebony Grisom
Category: Fall 2020, Georgetown Magazine

Title:Last Word: Rev. Ebony Grisom on guiding students, confronting symbols, and praying without ceasing during the pandemic

Author: Interviewed by Jeffrey Donahoe
Date Published: November 18, 2020

Rev. Ebony Grisom joined Georgetown as a Protestant chaplain in fall 2019. This past summer, she became interim director of Protestant Christian Ministry.

What brought you to Georgetown?

I had worked in higher education, and I was really excited about the opportunity to have the best of both worlds— both fully church and fully academic. Georgetown was particularly appealing because people here see the value of fully integrating faith into their lives.

What is particularly satisfying about campus ministry?

What’s great about being with college students is that worshiping or exploring questions of faith isn’t being imposed on them. They are making that decision and claiming it for themselves. As chaplains, we act more as conversation partners and guides. I went to a public university, and I don’t recall a robust campus ministry there. But I sang in the gospel choir for two years, and that was a really formative experience.

Before earning your divinity degree, you earned degrees in American and African history. Does that expertise frame your view of what’s happening in our country now?

There have been tremendous gains in civil rights, voting rights, and human rights but they required tremendous losses. Not just in the Civil Rights Era. In 2020 alone, we have seen the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor—all tremendous losses. To activate our country today, it’s not just that someone has to die, it’s that someone has to die on video. Black people have been saying that this is our reality for hundreds of years. Why weren’t our words enough? Why didn’t more people believe us? But I do feel hopeful that we will come through this moment with a different iteration of America.

“What’s great about being with college students is that worshiping or exploring questions of faith isn’t being imposed on them. They are making that decision and claiming it for themselves.”

Rev. Ebony Grisom

What’s your perspective about reconsidering the role of statues, monuments, flags, and team names?

There’s a power in confronting symbols. It says that this is not who we want to be anymore.

Has it been difficult to make time to reflect and pray during the pandemic?

A passage from 1 Thessalonians tells us to “pray without ceasing.” I think a lot of people imagine prayer to be hands clasped, head bowed—which is one posture. But prayer is also a kind of constant communion with God, regardless of what one is doing. To be able to hear and discern the voice of God in all things. I pray without ceasing in that way.

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