Julia Zauzmer: [HT: LNMM]
Who has some stories to tell us? — and please speak up. What are you seeing in your community when it comes to intentional racial reconciliation?
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The topic of the public lecture at the seminary was “The Bible and Race,” and the discussion had turned to “racial reconciliation,” buzzwords used for new efforts to heal old rifts.
What would it look like, one pastor wanted to know, for a church to actually become “racially reconciled”? Was it even possible?
Cynthia Latham had been sitting silently in the back. Now she stood up.
“I am a member of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church,” she said slowly and proudly. “And we are a reconciled congregation.”
In 2015, the church that Latham boasted of was two congregations, not one. There was the booming black church in the heart of the inner city, led by a charismatic preacher in the staunch tradition of black Baptists. And there was the quiet white church, nestled in the suburbs half an hour to the south, holding onto a tightknit community of Southern Baptist believers.And then the black church and the white church merged. The resulting congregation at Shiloh — black and white, urban and suburban — appears to be the only intentional joint church of its kind in the United States.
Fifty-four years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. famously pronounced that Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in this nation,” Shiloh Baptist embarked on a journey to address whether that centuries-old divide can be changed.
Now, two years later, even after some congregants left rather than change their traditions and the election of Donald Trump as president ratcheted up some tensions, many members at Shiloh say their ambitious effort at racial reconciliation is working.
“I have never felt so much love in a church in my life. . . . This church made me realize there is no color, none,” said Sue Rogers, 67, who is white. “I would do anything for anyone in this church, and they would do anything for me.”
Latham, who is black, said: “You get in there, you get fed. I don’t care how you walk in there, you don’t walk out the same.”