May 21, 2024

The Honorable Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once famously said: “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.” The question before us nearly 53 years later is “how much have things changed?”
The same question is on the minds of many pastors, who still claim that houses of worship are among the most divided institutions in American society. But here in Springfield, two local churches are working together to bridge that gap of difference. The Uniting Faith Church and The Champion City Vineyard Church made their merger of the churches official on Sunday, Oct. 4, during their morning worship service at 10 a.m.
I have attended church for the past couple of years at the Uniting Faith Church, where Jason Channels, a native of Springfield, was the pastor. He reminisced on a couple Sunday mornings leading into the big merger that for him, in some aspects, this was a dream coming true. In a recent interview with the local newspaper, he said that the churches will not lose their identities, their customs or who they are as people. It’s just a mutual respect for one another and acknowledging that both bring something very different and very vital to the table. He went on to say that, if anything, this merger will bring unity, love and solidarity to the city and people in the body of Christ.
Bruce Willman, senior pastor of Champion City Vineyard, upon moving to Springfield nearly 20 years ago wanted to be a pastor of a multi-ethnic church. Even though his church had always been mostly white.
Both churches currently have Wittenberg students who attend every Sunday. The Vineyard is a congregation of about 160, with an average of 15 African-American members. Pastor Channels’ church has a congregation of an average of 30 African-American members.
A recent study conducted by Lifeway Research shows that more than eight in 10 congregations are made up of one predominant racial group: Caucasians. Sixty-six percent of Americans who attend church say their church is doing enough to become racially diverse. Lastly, roughly 53 percent disagree with the statement: “My church needs to become more ethnically diverse.”
Luckily, this study has proven to be wrong for Springfield. As Pastor Willman put it so eloquently: “We may have different theology, we may come from different backgrounds, but we’re coming together.”
“We say we do church as family, and that is just so important to us,” he continued. “At Thanksgiving dinner, I don’t agree with everybody around the table, but we’re still family. That’s what we’re trying to create in our church — family.”

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