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Building trust: Churches partner to strengthen racial unity

May 14, 2018

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — It is more difficult to dislike someone you know. That is why Cornerstone Baptist Church and Round O Baptist Church have formed a partnership to strengthen racial unity, pastors at the churches said.

Cornerstone is a predominantly Anglo congregation, and Round O is a predominantly African-American congregation.

Last week, 450 members from both churches worked side by side on repair projects throughout the Pee Dee. Projects ranged from beautifying schools to cleanup assistance for people in need.

But for the pastors at the churches, it is not just about providing a day of free labor. It is about seeing members from different races form relationships as they collaborate on projects.

“We’re actually modeling for our community what the heart of God is as it pertains to race relations,” said Lacie Jones, the pastor of Round O.

MissionFest, the name of the service project, was one of a few organized partnership events between the churches. They have partnered for Hurricane Matthew cleanup and KidsFest, a day with interactive activities for families.

Even after matching T-shirts are folded and stored, the organized events naturally lead to ongoing relationships between members of both congregations, Jones said. Friending someone on Facebook or sharing a meal together chisels away uncertainty and distrust.

“The biggest problem on both sides is a lack of trust,” said Dr. Bill Curtis, pastor of Cornerstone. “There’s fear. There’s been unmet expectations, and there’s distrust . and those things have been engrained over time.”

Jones said people can do good deeds with faulty motives, but consistency is the key to forming authentic relationships.

“As we begin to try to forge relationship with each other, even as it pertains to Round O and Cornerstone, the truth teller is going to be how consistently we continue to forge this relationship, because the truth is, hard times are coming,” Jones said. “Difficulties, misunderstandings are going to come. . But, when the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel has taken over my heart, it causes me to live out its principles, which is unconditional love, so I’m not going to break the pattern of chasing after this relationship.”

The partnership between Round O and Cornerstone began after the June 2015 shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Curtis said he was moved by the state of racial conditions in South Carolina. He and the elders of Cornerstone began praying about what they could do to improve racial inequalities.

“God brought Lacie and I together around this idea of acknowledging that the answer is the church and we have to find a way to bring churches together from different backgrounds for the sake of the gospel to try to begin to model a new understanding, a new willingness to dialogue, a new willingness to build relationship,” Curtis said.

In a community that has almost equivalent population percentages of African-Americans and Anglos, there is an opportunity to learn from the strengths in each culture and display the beauty of a blended community, Curtis said.

Curtis and Jones said they would like to see partnerships grow, both between their churches and others in the area.

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Information from: Morning News, http://www.scnow.com

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