‘Togetherness and love’

Out of a racist past, a predominately white church partners with a Black church and a Cincinnati community council to provide opportunities

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

CINCINNATI — One hundred years ago Knox Presbyterian Church accepted a gift — worth $250,000 in today’s dollars — for a church of the white race only.  The congregation, led by the Rev. Adam Fronczek, confessed that tragic history in 2020. The church also made a commitment to a racial justice ministry, which it’s funding at $50,000 a year.

The Rev. Adam Fronczek (photo by Mike Fitzer/Film 180)

As part of the ministry, Knox has made significant commitment to continue its partnership in ministry at Third Presbyterian Church, which ministers in a Black neighborhood. The relationship between the churches has been going on for a long time. According to Fronczek, as Knox began to openly acknowledge its racist history, things began to change.

“When we need to name what it’s like for a mostly white congregation to come into this neighborhood and own that there’s racism embedded in the difference between our church communities and neighborhoods,” Fronczek said. “It makes a big difference to name the reason this work is required because of the racist damage that’s been done.”

Rodney Christian (photo by Mike Fitzer/Film 180)

Rodney Christian, ruling elder at Third Presbyterian and president of the East Westwood Community Council said the partnership between the two churches and council has given East Westwood recreation opportunities for over 25 years.  But now, as the City Council shines a light on the partnership, all kinds of activities are being developed.

A “Praise God Ballers” basketball court has opened in the East Westwood community in Cincinnati. (Photo by Mike Fitzer/Film 180)

There’s a new “Praise God Ballers” outdoor basketball court, a new Hope Resource Center, a community garden, a park down the street from Third Presbyterian Church, and murals being painted by young people in the community.

“Somebody told me [as young man] that I had a gift from God,” Christian said. “That made me change, to look into my purpose. It made me open the Bible. That’s everybody’s moment: What made you open the Bible?”

As Christian started learning about himself and his identity before God, he received hope, which is why he named the new resource center after that hope.  Knowing he couldn’t do it alone, God sent partners to work with Third Presbyterian Church and neighborhood partners.

“They came and we ended up in church at Third — and then more partners came,” he said. “We had to demonstrate love big time, and togetherness. That’s how it’s going to work. And that’s how what we’re sitting on now has been working — togetherness and love.”

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