Diverse churches have unity service

Sunday morning might be one of the most racially segregated times in America. But leaders of 10 churches in the Northeast say they hope a unity community service Sunday will bring diverse people closer together.

The churches from the Elgin and Richland County Northeast areas will have a joint program at Blaney Elementary School in Elgin beginning at 7 p.m.

Churches participating range from small, rural congregations to high-visibility, metropolitan groups.

They are Blaney Baptist, Fort Clark Baptist, Harmony Baptist, Highway Pentecostal, Hillcrest Baptist, North Columbia Baptist, Oak Grove Baptist, Pontiac First Baptist, Salem United Methodist, and Union Baptist churches.

“I hope this kind of meeting can take down some walls,” said the Rev. William H. Woodard, pastor of Fort Clark Baptist, an all-black church in rural Kershaw County.

“Church time on Sunday is the most segregated time in America,” he said.

There is no agenda for Sunday’s meeting – just an invitation to the community to worship and sing.

James Bush, minister of music at Fort Clark, will lead the music.

Main speaker will be the Rev. Steven Vassar, pastor of North Columbia Baptist Church. Vassar said his congregation is integrated, perhaps an exception to Sunday morning worship habits.

“I think that’s why they asked me to speak, and I feel honored,” he said. “I look forward to this service. We are all one in Christ.”

Vassar said his church, located along busy Interstate 20 near Alpine Road, has had a diverse congregation since it opened 19 years ago. About a third of the membership is black, he said.

The community service is under the general sponsorship of the Elgin Ministerial Association. The Rev. Steve Reed, pastor of Union Baptist Church, is president.

“If we’re going to build the kind of community we want in the Lugoff-Elgin area, we need this kind of event,” Reed said. “I hope it will be the first of many.”

The association has organized similar events, but this is one is much larger, Reed said. That’s why the school auditorium will be used.

Reed said he believes the Tony Evans crusade in Columbia in 1997 helped provide some momentum for more worship across racial lines.

“It’s personally exciting to me to see segments of our community come together,” he said.

Brooks Hudson Jr., a church leader at Oak Grove near Pontiac, said: “It’s great that churches unite and come together. There are a lot more things we could do together to help unite our community.”

July 15, 1999  State (published as The State)  Columbia, South Carolina
Page 59
July 15, 1999  State (published as The State)  Columbia, South Carolina
Page 61

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