This Easter season First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City began a new relationship with Tabernacle Baptist Church, a predominately African-American church here in our city. On Maundy Thursday we worshipped at our place and claimed the theme “Communion.” We served the Lord’s Supper in five stations throughout the sanctuary, each table lead by a member from both congregations. We served beside each other. We served each other in the name of Jesus. On Good Friday we gathered at Tabernacle to focus on the cross where we all come acknowledging our place and finding redemption together through God’s grand act of grace. In prayer and praise, song and sermon, we celebrated our common faith in Christ.
Tabernacle Baptist’s pastor is Dr. Daryl Hairston. He has become a friend that I cherish. He brings great joy into my life. We hope that our congregations can find the same quality of relationship that we have found with each other. Our choice to begin the church to church relationship during Holy Week is no accident. Many times traditionally white and black churches trade pulpits or do something together over the MLK birthday weekend or during Black History Month. Often these become acts of symbolic connection, but little happens between the churches in the weeks and months that follow. Daryl and I wanted to move beyond these symbolic acts of community and invite our congregations to become authentically family with and for one another. We chose Holy Week because we believed it was powerful to begin our congregational relationship in worship focused on the One who makes us one. Through the cross and the Easter empty tomb we are become brothers and sisters in a way that transcends race and culture. We hear in Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV) You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Part of what Daryl and I hope is that our churches relationship will also speak at a visible witness of community to a city that seems to claim a quiet and polite segregation and racism that divides our community. In some cities across our country the lines between the races is overt and the tension is palpable. In Oklahoma City it is more subtle, but its insidious nature is just as profound. It is our hope that as our congregations worship together, work together, and play together that our city will see a different way, a different model that can call us to a true sense of community. We are hopeful that those who claim one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV) can show the way together.
A personal note- I want to offer my sincere appreciation for the remarkable turnout of the FBC OKC church family when we worshipped at Tabernacle. I am thankful for this very visible sign of support for this new congregational relationship. Your response truly touched me.
Grace and Peace, Tom