In 2010, our CEO & President, Russ Snyder says he was led by God to find VOACC's first Chaplain to help build our church without walls, and that the Lord was leading him right to Reverend Sandra Trice Gray.
"It was predetermined by God to have me check into my LinkedIn account and I connected with Reverend Gray who had just left where she had pastored for many years,"says Russ.
After Russ met with Rev. Gray and spent some time with her in our programs, she came on as our first Chaplain on July 6, 2010 to help VOACC build our spiritual foundation. Truly the work of Rev. Gray was foundational. She led by example all the time, putting God first and being present for all, not only when she pastored, but when members of our church needed support.
According to Rev. Gray, "I believe if you are not available when people need you, you might as well not be available at all."
On many occasions, Rev. Gray has been known to visit those in need at the hospital. And when she couldn’t visit in person, she would pray with those who were sick by phone. In addition to providing personal support, Rev. Gray spearheaded numerous initiatives to grow our church without walls including the launching of our annual Spiritual Colloquium and Healing Conversations.
Through spiritual mentoring and the gift of prayer, Rev. Gray helped transform the lives of so many of us. She taught us the ministry of presence and to let the Holy Spirit guide our church and ministry of service. "The foundation she built is mission critical for VOACC and her legacy will be this foundation that we have built our church on which is solid ground for the future," says Russ. Prior to becoming our Chaplain, Rev. Gray was already a well-established and influential leader in the community. She is an internationally recognized pioneer of coalition building and partnerships across government, business, and nonprofit sectors. She was chosen as a member of a delegation of American women leaders to the Soviet Union sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, one of America’s Top 100 Black Business and Professional Women, and a HEW Fellow and served as a member of the President of the United States’ Committee on Education Partnerships. Rev. Gray also has an extensive career in education and administration at the local and state levels, and was the first Black person to teach at a white school in the desegregated public-school system of Little Rock, Arkansas.
In June, we held a farewell celebration during which Russ presented Rev. Gray with a Resolution from the Maryland Senate recognizing her work and extending best wishes on her retirement. Rev. Gray was also awarded the status of Chaplain Emerita.
"This is actually my 'third retirement,'" says Rev. Gray. "But it's time to move on. I am going to spend my time reading, enjoying the people in my life and spreading light and love."
During the celebration Russ recited the following poem in honor of Rev. Gray by one of our former Chief Development Officers, James Wynn.
“A Woman for Such a Time as This” Light and Love is what we wish for Someone to feed us when we’re hungry. Someone to care, console and restore us.Then she arrives Faith drives her Peace surrounds her Joy radiates from her God loves her.
Her presence reflects God’s light Her actions whisper love She is a warrior of justice She gives her best to us She exemplifies patience She is always present She never tires She always inspires.
Rooted in African American tradition, she has overcome. Carrying the shield of faith, She pushes back evil. The belt of truth Is never undone. She connects the generations for us to see, God, family, friends, community and even me.
We revel in her light We benefit from her love She is truly an angel Sent from above. Our world is better; Our burdens are lighter; To know her is to know bliss A woman for such a time as this!
For Rev. Gray, it is has always been the staff that have moved her the most at VOACC."Because of you this has been an incredible spiritual journey," she states. Rev. Gray, while you will be sorely missed by all of us here at VOACC, your presence will reverberate in our church without walls for years to come.
"Let us continue her legacy and make a difference in the lives that we touch to glorify God and better His Kingdom," says Russ.