In 1996, Promise Keepers hosted a national gathering of pastors to address the segregation of the church and call for a move of reconciliation in the body of Christ. Over 39,000 pastors gathered in Atlanta, the largest gathering of pastors in history at that time. Atlanta teamed with pastors riding in on the transit system and I recall singing hymns to each other on the trains and on the platforms as we met for a week of Holy Conferencing.
One of the speakers posed a question, “How many of you gathered share a personal relationship with another pastor not of your own denomination or of your own race in your community?” The question punched me in the gut.
At that time, I was serving a congregation in a county where the population was 80 percent black and 20 percent white and I could not name a pastor who was not of my own denomination, let alone, being of another race.
Returning to North Carolina from Atlanta, I made it my goal to befriend a pastor of another denomination and race. I found my new friend in a board meeting, where I served as a member in one of the government agencies. He and I struck up a relationship that continues today.
I remember the pain we shared as he recalled remembrances of lynchings that took place when he was a young boy. I had never known someone who had a personal witness of this experience. It was hard to hear and it is still hard to remember the pain as I listened to his story. What I do remember was the presence of Christ in the middle of Charles’ conversations as I listened and shared his pain.
Our relationship birthed a week-long celebration of worship events during the Week of Christian Unity in January of the next year. Charles and I gathered pastors from every race and every denomination in the county for an event that broke down walls and brought people together.
This week, I challenge you to find someone of another denomination and race. Invite them into a relationship where you begin to spend time together, hearing one another’s stories. Share your life and share their life. Let Christ’s presence in your new relationship birth something that will make a difference in your community.