Saturday, April 06, 2002

Faith Matters

Church has diverse mix

        The view from the pulpit isn't typical.

        The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called Sunday mornings the most segregated time of the week. And in most churches, it's still true.

        But when the Rev. Nancy A. Eichorn looks into the pews, “it's a wonderful blessing, because it looks like the kingdom of God.”

        Whites and blacks sit next to each other. They share hymn books and prayer concerns, schedule Bible study meetings and family events.

        The 100 or so members of the new Kemper Road Christian Church started down this path seven years ago when two Disciples of Christ congregations — one black, one white — decided to worship under the same roof, but at different times.

        There was a vision even then that God's people are not sorted by race but come together through His grace.

        The mostly white congregation of Forest Park Christian has worshiped at 11609 Hanover Road off West Kemper since the 1960s. St. John's Christian, mostly black, moved there from Bond Hill in the early 1990s when it needed more space.

        Over the years, the call to come together grew stronger. Members shared Sunday school classes and vacation Bible schools.

        In August, the members stepped out in faith and voted to merge as one.

        It isn't easy for churches to merge. Throw in the race card, and it can become a tangled mess.

        But these members faithfully worked to find compromise and solutions. Spirituals mix with old English hymns. The service allows spontaneity but also respects those who prefer more subdued worship.

        Members officially will close the chapter on their two congregations with a commemoration service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. By 2 p.m., the celebration begins, and they will rededicate the facility as Kemper Road Christian Church.

Health conference

        The best doctors consider the health of mind, body and spirit.

        So too should churches, says Marsha Thomas, a registered nurse and head of the first Faith, Health and Spirituality in the Black Church conference.

        Sponsored by The Interfaith Health Alliance & Resource Center, the conference offers several workshops, including on nutrition, HIV and AIDS, economic and social problems and journaling.

        The Rev. Clarence Wallace of Carmel Presbyterian Church in Avondale will receive the conference's first award, honoring his dedication to helping people with a holistic approach.

        The conference runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at Ammons United Methodist Church, 1301 E. McMillan Ave.
       For more religion listings, check out, keyword: events. E-mail or call 755-4144.



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