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Celebration helps unify faiths, races

August 08, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Roughly 250 people came together Sunday night at Martinsburg High School for a religious event that organizers hope will pave the way for a new approach to services in the city.

Ron Larson said many churches in the area are divided along racial and denominational lines and, "we wanted to see those walls come down" to create a new way of worship.

"There's not a mixture of churches coming together in oneness," Larson said.

The effort got under way in the auditorium at the high school when musical groups from about 10 Martinsburg-area churches offered an evening of performances ranging from Christian rock to traditional hymns, said Larson, pastor of the 365 Church, which meets at the high school.

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The first musical group, the 365 Worship Team, got the evening started with the song "I Found Jesus."

A full band backed a line of singers who sang and clapped their hands along the edge of the stage. The crowd was attentive and most of them stood during the songs.

Larson said plans are to have the celebrations about every three months, and eventually worship services will be added to them. The next service will be Nov. 5 at the high school.

The event was supposed to be held at the school's football field but was moved inside because of threatening thunderstorms.

"No one can dampen the spirit of God's people," Larson told the crowd at the beginning of the service.

Larson said there have been similar services in big cities and they have had profound effects, such as reducing crime, homelessness and gang activity.

"It's all been documented for eight or nine years. It's all done by sociological standards," Larson said in an interview before Sunday's event, which started about 6:30 p.m.

"It's like heaven takes notice," Larson said.

Those who attended were excited that such an event was organized in Martinsburg.

Felicia Harmison said there has been too much division in local churches and said she believes local residents need to come together more for church services and "put all things aside."

"I think this is awesome. I think this is something that should have happened a long time ago," said Harmison, of Martinsburg.

Sharon K. Campbell Meacham said it is a joy to meet someone new who is celebrating God.

"It's beautiful," she said.

Sunday morning, the 365 Church and Destiny Baptist Church held a joint service at the high school, attracting about 750 people, Larson said.

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