Black and White Christians in Texas Urged to Worship and Fellowship Together to Bridge Racial Barriers
Before Christians can bridge racial barriers to work together, they first must get to know each other in worship and fellowship, panelists and speakers told an interracial gathering at the predominantly African-American Zion Hill First Baptist Church in Nacogdoches.
Panelists discussing how to work across racial lines are (left to right) Patrick Sanders, social services specialist with Nacogdoches Head Start; Philip Attebery, dean of Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary in Jacksonville; Linda Harris, director of field education with the School of Social Work at Stephen F. Austin State University; and Jay Abernathy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Palestine. (PHOTO/Julie Covington/Baylor Center for Ministry Effectiveness & Educational Leadership)
That congregation worked with Austin Heights Baptist Church in Nacogdoches and the Center for Ministry Effectiveness and Educational Leadership at Baylor University to sponsor the event, "No Longer Strangers: Working Across Racial Lines."
Christian unity that spans racial divides requires pastors and church leaders to lead by example by associating with brothers and sisters of other races, said James Ervin, pastor of Iron Wheel Missionary Baptist Church in Nacogdoches.
"If we never get together, we will never come together," Ervin said.
Unity means harmony, not uniformity, he emphasized. True Christian unity provides freedom for believers to think, feel, worship and serve in a variety of ways.
"It's all right to be different. There must be liberty. There is no unity where there is no freedom," Ervin said. "It's hard to run with shackles on. It's hard to lift up Jesus with handcuffs on."
Kyle Childress, pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church, recalled wise counsel he received more than two decades ago when he asked how he as a young white minister could build relationships with African-American pastors: "Go and listen."
Show up at black ministerial alliance meetings and African-American social service groups, sit at the back and seek to be a student, not a teacher, a respected black minister told him. In time, as he listened and learned, Childress noted, he earned trust and developed deep friendships with African-American pastors.
Participating in a panel discussion, Jay Abernathy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Palestine, described an incident when he served a church in Stamford and also was on the local volunteer fire department. He remembered a Sunday afternoon when he helped put out a fire that came close to a local African-American church--an act that endeared him to the church's pastor.
"There are still fires that need to be put out," Abernathy said.
While segregationist Jim Crow laws have been overturned, their lingering legacy still influences how blacks and whites relate to each other, he asserted. "Decisions made long ago still affect us," he said.
Source: The Baptist Standard | Ken Camp
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