October 2, 2016
A shared faith and joint worship are building a bridge that is helping two Denver congregations cross a racial divide. Central Presbyterian, a predominantly white congregation, and Peoples Presbyterian, a predominantly African American one, began this journey on Martin Luther King Day this year. Central members traveled the 2.3 miles that separate the two congregations to worship with Peoples. The following Sunday, Peoples visited Central.
Not long afterward planning began on a joint women’s retreat, and Peoples hosted a vacation Bible school with children from both churches attending. Two additional joint worship services were held last spring, and more are anticipated in the future. “In past times, we had pulpit exchanges, but this is something much more than a pulpit exchange,” says Rev. Louise Westfall, Central’s pastor. “It’s a desire to be together.”
Theresa Varnado, a ruling elder at Peoples, is enthusiastic about the increasing level of understanding. “Sometimes the ideas we share just among ourselves can become redundant,” she says. “When we spend time in community, conversing and participating in joint activities, the opportunity to learn new and fresh ideas is greater. We are building bridges as well.”
The joint worship services that set this relationship in motion were part of a Colorado Council of Churches initiative called Soulful Sunday. Denver Presbytery uses a portion of its Peace & Global Witness Offering receipts to support the Soulful Sunday initiative across Colorado. Tom Sheffield, presbytery pastor, admits that simply holding joint worship services can be superficial. “But,” he says, “the experience of Central and Peoples shows that they can lead to deeper relationships and honest conversations about each other’s lives.”
Our fractured world stands in desperate need of deeper relationships and honest conversations across racial lines. On this World Communion Sunday, we join Christians around the world who are gathering at the Lord’s Table, a place where divisions are healed and hope is proclaimed. May we cross the barriers Christ calls us to traverse as we lean into the hope of Christ’s redemption.
Pat Cole, Communications Specialist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: World Communion Sunday/Peace & Global Witness Offering
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Reconciling God, we seek a world where diversity is honored, where strangers become friends, and where breaches are mended. Grant us courage and grace to reach beyond the familiar, extend welcome to strangers, and build bridges of unity. Amen.