The Rev. George Cummings looked out over his congregation in the Laurel District of Oakland and saw white faces sitting next to black ones. Piedmonters sat next to Oaklanders.One of the most intractable racial divides in America – the self-segregation of churches – was being bridged before his eyes.
“The God who calls us to be together, calls us to oneness,” said Cummings, pastor of Imani Community Church.
“Amen,” said someone in the crowd.
“We are not always there yet, but we are on our way,” said Cummings, who is black.
“That’s right,” said another voice from the pews.
Cummings’ church and Piedmont Community Church decided that they would come together as one people. They will worship together periodically. They’ve started to mix into each others’ Bible studies. Their choirs sing together. Their children have gone on a mission trip together to Tijuana. On Sunday, May 3 and May 17, they had ceremonies affirming their covenant with each other.
Piedmont Community Church is predominantly white, as much as Imani is black. They are only 10 minutes apart by car, yet before this relationship began, neither pastor had been to the neighborhood of the other’s church. All sides see bridging the divide as bearing fruit. Read More
My heart was blessed by this article. Seeing the Kingdom of God uniting and overcoming racial/ethnic barriers is satisfying to my soul. What is wonderful about this situation is the fact that churches are literally 10 minutes from one another, thus the potential for collaboration and eventually integration is there. I am sure that if they decided to integrate permanently there will be culture collisions, but those tensions would be growth pangs that lead one another towards Godliness.
Shallow differences of style and preference often get in the way of us being true community together.
One of the congregation members made a wonderful comment to bookend this article.
Jan Hunter, an Imani member, said doing the right thing sometimes means feeling uncomfortable. A few years ago, the Imani congregation christened the child of a lesbian couple. It was a first for many in the congregation.
“I don’t know what we thought was going to happen,” said Hunter, 54, who is black. “Everyone was happy. Lightning did not strike.”
She said it was probably uncomfortable for some to worship with people they’d had prejudices about – in both directions. But, she said, “You have to start somewhere.”
“Doing the right thing sometimes means feeling uncomfortable”; simple and profound. We are a comfort seeking culture one of the ways this is manifested is the continued racial and socioeconomic segregation of our churches (and neighborhoods).
One of the most important elements of this article is that these are old churches. They aren’t church plants by young folks who see the need for multi-cultural congregations. While new plants are beneficial, there is something rich in reconciliation when churches change directions and acknowledge the ills of their separation. These two churches have histories, they existed for years. The fact that they are willing to understand the biblical call for unity, acknowledge the social rift between ethnicities and humble themselves is simply incredible.
I am encouraging my church to participate in this type of relationship. We live approximately 30 minutes from any church that is not predominately white, so whatever relationship we form will not be one that leads to one integrated local church. But, racial reconciliation between Christians can most definitely be done . Churches can learn to worship and serve with those “different from them”, understand the needs of different communities and become a larger body of Christ.
Huntington, Indiana has a dark racial history and although things have changed there are mutual negative perceptions between he minority communities in Fort Wayne , Marion, and Huntington. If something can occur it will not only mend the brokenness with the church, but within our communities.