Black, white churches in Texas demonstrate unity in response to Trayvon Martin shooting
Two churches in Greenville, Texas — one predominantly black and one predominantly white — worshiped together and called on Christians to heal the racial divide sparked by the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
Randy Daw, minister for the Johnson Street Church of Christ, writes a regular column for the Herald Banner newspaper in Greenville. Following is text from his column about the combined worship.
(Our thanks to Andy Gibson for posting this piece, which doesn’t yet appear on the newspaper’s website. We contacted the church to verify it.)
We Are One
The killing of a young man in Florida saddens people all over the country. A small number of our fellow citizens are taking their anger to the streets with shouts, threats and (in some cases) violence.
Last Wednesday night the members of the Eastside Church of Christ, a mostly black congregation, decided to make a different kind of statement. Led by minister Paul Washington, the church dismissed its regular service to come worship with the (mostly white) Johnson Street Church of Christ.
We responded in kind. Members waited by the door to invite our guests to sit among us. This night there would be no brown, white or black section. We wanted to be clearly, obviously, one.
When he spoke, Brother Washington explained in words like these:
“Tonight a racial divide is spreading from Sanford, Fla. Black people and white people are shouting at each other. We are here to show the world that in Christ there is no black, no white, and that we can worship God together in unity.”
It was a wonderful evening.
I hope that others follow Eastside’s lead. It may not erase every difference or heal every wound, but hatred will fail where unity prevails, and joy will rise in its place.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:28
— Randy Daw, Minister, Johnson Street Church of Christ
FeedbackTalk about the Body of Christ in action! thank you, thank you Thank you!!KevinApril, 13 2012I beleive this is what all people should do. That is become colorblind to every person.. God created us all! He does not make mistakes!Barbara NoonerApril, 13 2012I contacted Paul Washington to get him to send in his picture. He sent me one, with the following comment: “…here�s a pic if needed, however we look exactly alike brother�”Randy DawApril, 13 2012Hope it has really changed & this isn’t just for show! When I visited the “white” congregation 20 years ago, I was met at the door but I was told that I had not gone far enough � I probably meant to go to Eastside!PatriceApril, 13 2012Yes, Patrice, we still had a couple of people who talked that way 20 years ago, and that is exactly what they meant. Things really have changed (those people are gone), but we’re still about 90% white. Reputations can take a long time to die. I pray for the day that we look pretty much like the community does (60% white,25% hispanic, 15% black) — then we will look like the body of Christ.
Next time you are in town, come visit again… you will feel the difference.Randy DawApril, 13 2012Patrice, I agree with Randy. 20 years is a long time and many things have changed. Come on back and see….Tom DavisApril, 13 2012My family was always made welcome at Johnson Street. My children met and continue to associate with fellow Christians from there. We all must remember that satin regularly attends church. Show him love and will flee from you.Roy ChildsApril, 13 2012This is great – the way it SHOULD be – ALL the time!! Great job my Texas brothers and sisters.Dewey LeggettApril, 19 2012I want to preface my comments with as much love and respect as I possibly can so that the tone is not misinterpreted and especially so that this will NOT be taken personally at all in any way by anyone involved in this wonderful worship service. We need more examples of unification like this community of faith has demonstrated.
However…There’s something about this story that really bothers me. Why does it take shouting at each other to force talking to each other? The racial divide wasn’t sparked by a tragedy, it is the tragedy. No doubt it was a wonderful evening. An event is not unity. Events take place everyday where people do things at the same time at the same place with a common purpose (sports event, restaurants, walmart, waiting rooms). Yes, it is a great step forward and we can pray one step of many across this land. It should’ve been something we only read about in the chronicles of history. How much is the church to blame? I don’t know. But, if the transformative power of the blood of Jesus isn’t a great enough stimulus to nudge us past racial division ourselves by now, it is doubtful that an event will be a suitable substitute.
It is the rare commitment to unity that leads to combining healthy congregations. Many would argue that separate but unified is the basic form of the christian community experienced today. That has an element of truth. Separate congregations are a reality today in every community. Why we are separated is what gives individual congregational leadership pause to consider their reasoning, their stewardship of resources and their niche in the Kingdom. Local congregations might be geographically located to minister most efficiently to local residents, for example. Certainly, one need not meet together with every christian in order to be unified in Christ.
But we really aren’t talking about unity in Christ are we? One thing we do know, we know when we really aren’t demonstrating any community based salt and light unity in Christ. That won’t be best demonstrated by an event following a shouting match. None of us can change the past. Not a single one of us. But what we do in the present so that the future isn’t simply more of the past is where
�There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.� � Galatians 3:28 are no longer simply words trapped on a page. Are we ready to really move forward based on scripture and not on script?
*I almost deleted all this. Rambling can lose the point! If you have to decide whether what I wrote was in christian love or otherwise, then I have failed the reader and I deeply and humbly and beg for forgiveness.Mike NanceApril, 19 2012Mike Nance made a good point (and I can tell it came from a good heart)but as I’ve heard over and over in church, “It starts with You” (meaning ME). I think these church members accomplished that this day! Proud of them…keep it up! Hopefully you will inspire many other believers. I know it blessed my heart.Jeanne WilcoxApril, 20 2012I like Mike’s primary point:
“The racial divide wasn�t sparked by a tragedy, it is the tragedy.”
If events like the one I reported are seen as ends in themselves, they will change little. But if hearts have already changed (and I think in many places they have), a seminal event can become a catalyst for institutional change, which in many ways is more difficult than the molding of an individual heart.
The jury is still out on that one. But it is encouraging to see that something redemptive can happen to at least provide a Christian counternarrative to the events of the day.
Thanks, Mike, for your prophetic “reality check.”Randy DawApril, 20 2012There are a few places where black and white congregations can come together and enjoy the fellowship of Christians. The College Hill church in Lebanon, Tennessee is one of those places. But why is this such a rarity that when it does happens, it is news? Thanks to the CC for reporting this event. Maybe some white congregations will soon understand the need for them to take the initiative to bring about such a show of unity and fellowship. It will take white leaders to address the remaining remnants of racism in the white church. For years brethren would get a black preacher to address the issue when they felt the need to discuss. But if a person is prejudiced to begin with, why do you think they would listen to a black preacher?
Another issue has to do with what it took for the Martin case to get to a trial in the pursuit of justice. The martin family was told that the case was over one month after the incident. In some areas of social relations, it takes some people protesting for equal justice, getting beat up, going to jail and even dying before the national conscience is raised demanding change. Some brethren were highly critical of those activists that protested in the Martin case. But it obviously took that in order to get the case to trial where the evidence could be examined by a jury. This pattern of progress through conflict is illustrated in women gaining the right to vote in public elections. It was also the pattern in the Black Civil Rights Movement which sought equal justice under the law, access to public accommodations, non-discrimination in hiring practices, opportunity to attend good public schools, and the right to vote in public elections. Many people died unjustly (including 4 little girls in Sunday School in Birmingham, AL) before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.Harold WilliamsApril, 23 2012Prejudice isn’t due to skin color. Grab any phone directory: Our churches don’t worship together for reasons that are much deeper and far more entrenched than our melanin content. Reaching out won’t easily find an outstretched hand to grasp simply based on a shared desire for unity and fellowship. It never does. It’ll take a whole lot of intentionality, love, mercy, grace, patience, forgiveness and humility flowing unimpeded both directions. It won’t have anything to do with race. The scriptures have already bared our souls. How we respond tells us who WE really are – individually… and collectively where we choose to congregate. 🙂 As long as our christian walk requires more of the other christian than it does of myself, the gospel’s transformative message will have missed its mark. Missing the mark is not a race problem.Mike NanceApril, 27 2012I am thankful for all the efforts placed in justice and unity. My only issue is that we still cannot see the full brunt of “separating” ourselves with the labels “black” and “white” in the first place…still truly sad for me in my opinion. The Lord’s Body was not created for that purpose. Jesus’ death brought on the tearing down of the middle wall of partition; did not it in principle take it down in separation based on race by mankind as well? Ephesians 2 My Bible teaches that the kingdom was and IS for all…not to be separated again AFTER baptism. Galatians 3. Many will say that it is not a racial problem, but it is based in racial issues. Our own written history of the Church proves that. I will never say that it is everyone’s problem..but it is OUR problem and one that we still refuse to openly discuss or address. Until then, we will continue to be divided unnecessarily and needlessly.Archie R. GreenApril, 30 2012