Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the organizer of Selah, a leadership encounter, says that her path started with a call. “We call it the call to preach,” she says. “After my call, I went to seminary, ordination, and I prayed to make sure I understood.” 

Her call led her to a nontraditional role. She is the bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first woman elected to the position in the denomination’s 233-year history. She presides over a prelate of more than 200 churches in Texas, and is the founder of Selah, an annual leadership encounter, which is taking place on Nov. 20 and 21 and is benefiting Minnie’s Food Pantry. 

This year’s line-up of speakers and performers includes:

  • Grammy-award winning recording artist Marvin Sapp
  • author Minda Harts
  • master entrepreneur Gloria Mayfield Banks
  • author Rev. Dr. Cecelia Williams-Bryant, who is promoting her newest book, “Together: A Biblical Meditation and Guide to Enrich Covenant Marriage”
  • Nicole Fortune, national manager, customer relations Toyota Lexus Financial
  • Rev. Dr. Danielle Brown, pastor of church life at Cathedral International
  • Nicole Roberts Jones, nationally recognized transformational speaker and bankroll your brilliance expert
  • Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie.

“Whenever you step into nontraditional role, there is always resistance,” Bishop McKenzie says. “The first female state senator, first female surgical doctor, the first  female principal, first female dean, first female CEO of a fortune 500 company. Ask the first male nurse what resistance he experienced. There is always resistance when people don’t know how things will change.” 

However, Bishop McKenzie, first consecrated in 2000, found her purpose and her passion in leadership. 

Selah is more than a conference; it’s a community of women from diverse careers, business, and education. It’s also the pinnacle of 20 years of work Bishop McKenzie has done to build a community of leaders. 

“Selah is an ancient word that means to stop, stop here before moving forward,” Bishop McKenzie says. “In November, we stop at the end of the year, and do some reflection. We invest into our lives to be ready for the new year. We spend time in rest and reflection, and prepare to handle the new year.” 

Courtesy of Bishop McKenzie’s Facebook

While Selah, leadership encounter has been going on four years, Bishop McKenzie says she’s been doing it all her life in one form or another. Originally, it took the form of a group she called Circle of Love which met twice a month to seek answers together.

“As a pastor 20 years ago, women were coming to me asking for advice. Many had similar needs. Instead of trying to answer and identify resources on my own, I said we needed to come together,” McKenzie says.

They brought in experts in fields like medicine and banking and discussed the trouble of everyday life. In 2020, they’re discussing trauma. 

“The pandemic is happening around us. People are feeling isolated. A pandemic is unrelenting, unstoppable, it is all the time, it does not go away. It has impacted every area of our lives,” she says. “It’s not just you. It’s also happening to your neighbors, to people down the street. How do we handle it? How do we do what we can do?” 

The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic also influenced the choice of a nonprofit for Selah to donate proceeds to. Every year, Selah ticket funds go to support a nonprofit, and this year, 40 percent of them are going to Minnie’s Food Pantry to feed families for the holidays. 

The need is greater this year than ever. In March, at the beginning of the pandemic, Minnie’s founder Cheryl Jackson told Local Profile that about 20 to 30 percent of the people they were seeing were new clients that had never been to a pantry before.

“I’ve seen so many emotions from the front line from people saying they never thought they’d be here to ‘What happened?’” Jackson said.

Jackson reports that the pantry has distributed 3 million meals since March and food pantries are giving out 60 percent more food than an average month.

“Cheryl “Action” Jackson does an extraordinary job. She has a fabulous story and a big heart,” Bishop McKenzie says. “We worked with her this summer to find thousands at Paul Quinn and wanted to partner with her again. Women come from all over Texas and outside to attend Selah, and we wanted to give an opportunity to hear Cheryl’s story, and to support hurting and hungry families.” 

As Bishop McKenzie points out, in every crisis is an opportunity. She hopes that Selah, virtual for the first time ever, will be both an opportunity to reach more women than ever before, and be a way to feed North Texas families.

“We could not have a regular conference at a hotel with breakfast, or have live presenters, or be able to hug each other, but we have an opportunity to have Selah virtually and reach way more women than we could have before,” she says. “I’m hoping they will walk away with some solution-based information. I hope they will walk away encouraged. We are going to make it. We want to promote healing, hope, and hustle.” 

Selah Leadership Encounter is open to the public and forty percent of registration will go to Minnie’s Food Pantry. Attendees can register at bit.ly/SelahMainEvent.

For more information visit vashtimckenzie.com.

Alexandra Cronin

Alexandra Cronin is Local Profile's senior editor. She has been with the company since 2016. She loves great coffee, good food, and average wine.