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Economy hurts National Lectureship attendance

PHILADELPHIA — For 17 years, Doris Norman has traveled to the National Lectureship of the Churches of Christ — the largest yearly gathering of black churches.

“It’s spiritually uplifting,” said Norman, a member of the Valley Road Church of Christ in Warrington, Pa., north of Philadelphia. “It’s great seeing so many Christians together and seeing so many people that you’ve met through the Lectureship. And then I have so much family that’s members of the church, it’s even a family reunion and a vacation.”

This year was different: Philadelphia area churches hosted the recent 66th annual National Lectureship. Brittany Mitchell, 14, from the Overbrook Park Church of Christ in Philadelphia — the host congregation — joined Norman in helping at a hospitality table for the 850 participants from 36 states.

Dan Cooper, minister of the Pitman Church of Christ in Sewell, N.J., south of Philadelphia, used a church van to shuttle fellow Christians to the Downtown Marriott.

“We saw this as a way to increase our diversity, offer goodwill to our African-American brothers and try to build unity among the churches in the area,” said Cooper, who is white.

R.C. Wells, minister emeritus of the Harlem church in New York, served as the event’s national chairman. Willie L. Rupert Jr., former minister of the Overbrook Park church, now at the Central Church of Christ in Baltimore, was the host minister. Organizers said the recession hurt attendance.

“We average around 1,300,” said Kevin Bethea, minister of the East Baltimore Church of Christ. “In good days, we can go as high as 2,000 people. The economy really hit us.”

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