Area churches cross color divide to help community

Area churches cross color divide to help community

July 18th, 2015 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Rosalyn Hickman, left, executive director of Covenant Keypers (CQ), and Chandalee Chrisman (CQ), communications coordinator and women's ministry coordinator for the Stuart Heights Baptist Church, meet at the Stuart Heights Baptist Church Hixson campus on Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn., to discuss an upcoming racially unified women's seminar. The all-day event will take place at the Hixson campus on July 18.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

A marriage ministry made up of nearly two dozen local black churches has joined forces with predominantly white Stuart Heights Baptist Church to promote more unity among Christians regardless of race.

"Our city is in a bad way and it's time we come together to work as one. The Bible says they will know us by our love," said Rosalyn Hickman, co-founder of Covenant Keypers, a ministry including 23 majority black congregations that marks its 10th birthday this year.

Stuart Heights has a congregation of more than 1,400 members.

"We've got a black church and white church coming together, having a service together. That does not happen in the South," said Chandalee Chrisman, Stuart Heights' communications director and director of women's ministry.

If you go

What: “What Every Woman Ought to Know About Love” Women’s Conference

When: 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. today

Where: Stuart Heights Church, 1505 Cloverdale Drive

Admission: $33 for each adult; free for those ages 10-17

Information: covenantkeypers.org

Rosalyn Hickman, right, executive director of Covenant Keypers (CQ), and Chandalee Chrisman (CQ), communications coordinator and women's ministry coordinator for the Stuart Heights Baptist Church, meet at the Stuart Heights Baptist Church Hixson campus on Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn., to discuss an upcoming racially unified women's seminar. The all-day event will take place at the Hixson campus on July 18.

Rosalyn Hickman, right, executive director of Covenant Keypers...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

The ministries will host a conference from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today. The conference, titled "What Every Woman Ought to Know About Love," targets those ages 10 and older. Free for girls age 17 and younger, the conference costs $33 for adults.

Brenda and Clarence Shuler of Colorado Springs will be the main speakers. Clarence Shuler assists the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families with its National African-American Healthy Marriage Initiative, whose goal is to promote healthy marriages, responsible fatherhood and well-being of children.

The Shulers also are members of the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Speaker Team; the Weekend to Remember is a series of seminars held nationwide to help married couples strengthen their relationships. FamilyLife is a Christian-based nonprofit.

Brenda Schuler said the message of love at the women's conference should bring unity.

"The message I need to share is for all people," she said, "something that will benefit everyone."

Stuart Heights started partnering with predominantly black churches after senior pastor Gary Jared partnered with the Rev. Ternae T. Jordan, pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church, to host a worship service together after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014. Several people in the congregation noted the diversity in the combined congregations and wanted it to continue.

It wasn't the first time black and white churches worshiped together and a few black and Hispanic families are members of Stuart Heights. But the worship service with Mt. Canaan was a catalyst for an intentional continuous effort by the church, Chrisman said.

Since then, Stuart Heights and Mt. Canaan have hosted an Easter egg hunt together, and Stuart Heights has also worked in conjunction with Miracle Missionary.

Hickman said she has been praying for at least a year that more Christians would form relationships across racial boundaries. People of faith could be more powerful in influencing and addressing needs in the community if they worked together, she said.

"What is it that makes all of our audience African-American when we are in a city where all of us are affected by sin and we have so many things in common?" she asked.

The churches' efforts toward diversity comes after LifeWay Research released a study this year saying Sunday morning worship services still mark the most-segregated time in the country yet many churchgoers oppose more diversity.

According to the study published in January 2015, researchers surveyed more than 990 churchgoers about race and the church. They also surveyed 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Protestant senior pastors. They found 71 percent of Evangelicals are most likely to say their church is diverse enough. About 37 percent of whites polled said their "church needs to become more ethnically diverse." Fifty-one percent of blacks polled said their church needs more diversity and 47 percent of Hispanics said their church needs to be more diverse.

"Jesus prayed to make Christians one, but how can they be one if they never spend time together?" said Hickman

Contact Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.


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