I have been involved in various conferences, celebrations and worship events designed to address the need for racial reconciliation for the past 50 years.
The vast majority of these events were developed by an academic community or they came about as an invitation from an individual congregation celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
These were helpful and encouraging events, revealing the need for additional dialogue and cooperation between different racial and ethnic groups.
However, I often left these events feeling like something was missing. I felt like we were trying but somehow not really moving forward.
One of the “Star Wars” movies gave me a bit of insight. It was that scene where Luke Skywalker first meets Yoda – the legendary Jedi who has agreed to train young Skywalker.
The session is not going well. Luke can’t seem to focus. Yoda gets a bit frustrated, and Luke declares that he is “trying.” To that Yoda responds, “There is no try. There is do or not do.”
And so it is with racial reconciliation. Simply trying is not enough. We must do.
The opportunity for doing came a couple of years ago.
I was attending the New Baptist Covenant meeting in Atlanta. During one of the breaks, I struck up a conversation with Douglas Stowers, the incoming president of the New Era Missionary Baptist Convention.
My relationship with New Era began not long after I became the coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia (CBF/GA) some 20 years ago.
I have attended many of their annual sessions, and they have had representatives at our sessions.
We had worshipped together, but we have never worked together in any real sense. Doug and I made a decision to change that.
We agreed to ask our respective groups to form a covenant of action in which we would worship and work together.
On April 15, 2016, at Smoke Rise Baptist in Stone Mountain, Georgia, our leaders signed a formal agreement toward that end.
Luke 4:18-19 was the basis of the covenant agreement, which described these verses as “a guiding principle of what Jesus would have us do in the world.”
New Era and CBF/GA committed in this partnership to “a long-term relationship between two ‘neighbors'” that would focus on “concrete ministry and mission in Georgia.”
The first joint event took place on May 14, 2016, at the New Era Baptist Convention Center in Griffin, with volunteer groups assigned to three projects: landscaping, sheetrock removal and painting.
We had anticipated having about 100 individuals participate. To our surprise and utter joy, about 250 showed up to work and worship.
We worked and worshipped, and then worked some more. We had hoped to “Catch the Spirit of Pentecost,” and catch it we did.
Perhaps we could say it caught us. When we left that day, I did not feel like anything was missing.
For more than 20 years, CBF/GA has sponsored a youth mission event we call March Mission Madness.
This coming March, youth from the New Era Missionary Baptist Convention and youth from CBF/GA will continue the work begun last year at the Griffin site. This will be one of many such endeavors over the next decade.
It is our hope that through such hands-on projects real community will emerge. The kind of beloved community Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned 50 years ago.
Frank Broome is executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series on missions and local churches / denominational organizations.
Previous articles in the series are: