Growing up in the Black sect of the Pentecostal Holiness Churches in southern Virginia and northern North Carolina, I can remember the efforts to cross the barriers cause by race in which we had many shared events with the (White) Churches of God in that part of the country. It was a conscious effort by ministers in both churches to have joint revivals, pulpit exchanges, Camp Meetings, etc. As a child I really didn’t realize the enormity and boldness of this effort that was taking place on the heels of all the Civil Rights struggles of the 50s and early to mid-60s.
Attending a Faith in Action meeting for AL and reading the assigned lectionary scriptures for this week, my mind ran back to how special these folks were to take the bold actions they took to make such a powerful statement in those communities despite the heightened racial tensions of that era. Maybe they made such efforts despite the times because they understood something remarkable about God’s love for us and God’s command for us to love God and love others. Listen to some of this.
Maybe they knew that creating opportunities to worship together was a good starting place for reconciliation of races. Psalms 84:4-5, 11 says, “Blessed are those who dwell in Thy house, ever singing Thy praise! Blessed are the men and women whose strength is in Thee in whose hearts are the highways to Zion. … For the Lord God is a sun and shield; He bestows favor and honor. NO good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Or perhaps the reason they made such an effort to defy culture norms of that moment was they understood, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6;12) They saw each other as children of God worthy to be in communion with!
Whatever their reason for doing it, I am thankful that it made an impression on me and taught me to look beyond race, sex, age and though they didn’t know it at the time, even sexual orientation. As I look at the diversity of Covenant, I pray this continues to be for us in 2015 and the future.
Something else made an impression on me; I noticed we shared many songs in common, although whites and blacks sang them with a slightly different flavor. However, not so with one song, “Where Could I Go?” I remember us singing that one with the same tune and speed. It seemed that we always sang the second verse to recognize that despite our efforts to bridge the gap with neighbors and worshipping together; we recognized that God was truly the source of hope for both sides. It says:
Neighbors are kind, I love them everyone – We get along in sweet accord.
But when my soul, needs manner from above – Where could I go but to the Lord?
Join us for worship at Covenant this Sunday. Peter, in the Gospel reading this week, provides an answer to the question raised by this song. My sermons will be titled after that great old song, “Where Could I Go?” based on John 6:59-69.