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Unity and diversity preached at Pa. gospel celebration

February 28, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

MARION, Pa. - Every Sunday across America, millions of people open their Bibles and pray to the same God, but they do so in churches where the faces are mostly white or black or Hispanic.

"They say Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week," said Tom Seaman, the pastor of worship arts at Antrim Brethren In Christ Church, which hosted a Black Gospel Celebration Sunday night. About 300 people, many from 10 predominantly black churches that were invited to the service, sat down for a meal, some music and a message.

"Religion is so cultural," Seaman said as people lined up for the covered dish dinner. People tend to attend the churches and denominations in which they are raised, whether that is Lutheran, Mennonite, Catholic, black, white or Hispanic, he said.

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"It's true, unfortunately," said Marilyn Womack of the Zion Baptist Church of Hagerstown. The church choir, of which she has been a member for more than 30 years, led the musical celebration.

At the table where she sat, choir members Kathy McCrea, Meloney Smith and Will Woodson Jr. warmed up their vocal cords before the concert, softly singing a few lines of "What if God is Unhappy?"

"We're many members, but one body ... We've got to have connections with one another," said Haru Carter Jr., pastor of Zion Baptist.

"There's not going to be any separation due to denomination" in heaven, he said.

"It's good to see the cultures of other churches," said Elder Edgar Scott of the Greater Good News Church Of God In Christ in Chambersburg, Pa. He founded the church 43 years ago after having hitchhiked and preached his way from California to Pennsylvania a few years earlier.

"The Lord blessed me to organize and establish that church," said Scott. It was the first of 11 he helped found, including three in Jamaica, he said.

Having undergone hip replacement less than three weeks before, Scott was using a walker, but he seemed to have little need of it after ascending to the pulpit.

Calling himself "an extemporaneous preacher," Scott said, "Quite frankly, I'm anxious to see for myself what I'm going to say tonight."

"I believe we have a service concerning unity," Scott said. "We need one another ... You're not so tough you can make it through life all by yourself."

"A threefold cord is not easily broken," he said, quoting from Ecclesiastes 4:12. "Every Christian believer is wrapped, tied and tangled in God."

"Thread comes in different colors, but it serves the same purpose," he said. "The Lord needs you in this sewing operation."

Carl Helman, a member of the Antrim Brethren In Christ congregation, said the evening was not about diversity, but unity.

"Our strength is in our unity. Unity in the face of diversity. Unity in Christ," Helman said.

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