Congregations tear down wall by breaking bread

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
For generations, the congregations of Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church have worshiped within two blocks of each other in downtown Salisbury.
But race and culture placed an invisible wall between the churches, and they seldom came together as part of the same Christian community.
The Zion-Lutheran Connection ó a committee made up of members from both churches ó has begun work to bring down that wall. It actually started with a shared music and arts camp last summer in which youth from Soldiers Memorial and St. John’s participated.
It continued Saturday with the churches’ First Annual Family Music Extravaganza in the St. John’s sanctuary.
After close to two hours of music, which highlighted the talents of individuals and groups from both congregations, the crowd of about 200 gathered in the Fellowship Hall for a picnic dinner.
Mark Lewis, a St. John’s member and one of the Zion-Lutheran Connection leaders, described it as an historic fellowship event and an outreach activity for both churches.
It’s an effort, Lewis said, “to break down any barriers that may have divided us.”
The Zion-Lutheran Connection envisions the churches partnering in the future in pulpit, choir and congregation visitation exchanges; a joint prison ministry; construction of a Habitat for Humanity house; youth sports; and other outreach ministries.
The committee’s mission statement is “Sharing; a common faith; Showing: the Christian walk; and Shaping: a model for the community.”
“Something is at work here,” said the Rev. Dr. Leonard H. Bolick, bishop of the N.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, who was a guest Saturday.
He sat through the music extravaganza with the Right Rev. George W.C. Walker Sr., presiding prelate and senior bishop of the Piedmont Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
Interestingly, Bolick and Walker said the Lutheran and AME Zion churches on a national scale have been looking for ways to work together.
“We’re beginning,” Bolick said. “Who knows what God has in mind, but it will take place with God’s spirit.”
Walker said the churches’ leadership officials see opportunities to share their faith through church and seminary exchanges.
In between the music and the picnic, Lewis and the Rev. Dr. Grant Harrison Jr., pastor of Soldiers Memorial, presented the bishops with framed reproductions of a Michael L. Kirksey drawing, which depicts the exteriors of both churches sitting on top of a piano keyboard and brightened by a radiating sun in the background.
People who attended the picnic were invited to take their placemats, which were laminated copies of the drawing.
The Music Extravaganza itself featured combined choirs, instrumentalists, voice solos, the St. John’s Men’s Chorus and the Soldiers Memorial Children’s Choir.
The St. John’s Chancel Choir and Soldiers Memorial’s Cathedral Choir combined at the beginning and end of the extravaganza.
Joanne Harrison of Soldiers Memorial performed two organ solos.
Rosemary Kinard and Ralph Hair, both of St. John’s, played flute and euphonium pieces, respectively.
Dr. Harrison sang two solos, and Ondria Durocher-Witt sang “Amazing,” a song she wrote with her father, Rob Durocher, who serves as music director at St. John’s.
St. John’s Center Celebration musicians and singers performed two songs and joined the choirs at the end.
“I don’t know when I’ve sat through a service (and so) thoroughly appreciated the music,” Walker said after the extravaganza.
St. John’s Christian rock band, Black Lavender, played at the picnic in the Fellowship Hall.
The Music Extravaganza Saturday also served a second purpose, acting as a food drive for Rowan Helping Ministries.
People attending the event donated canned goods and and the leftover food from the picnic also will go to RHM’s shelter.
“We will go forth from this service tonight sharing this experience with those we come in contact with,” Walker said. “Who knows what God has in store for us.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or