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Roger Barbee: Separate but equal

Roger Barbee

Last night my wife and I attended a worship service at Trinity Baptist Church in our hometown of Mooresville. Led by the North Carolina Baptist Singers and Orchestra, the service presented sacred music from musicians and singers from Baptist churches around North Carolina.
Listening to the voices and music, I was glad that my wife had come home from choir practice last week to tell me about the evening. Having never heard of the group, I was swept away by the talent of its members. Before the music began, the pastor of Trinity reminded the audience that what we were to see and hear was not a concert but a worship service. It was, but two observations kept circling in my head, clouding my worship.
As I looked at the NCBSO, I could not help but be aware of the age of its members. Now, I don’t know, but I suspect from my observation last night that the average age of its members must be over 50. And I also saw only white faces singing or playing. These two points do not raise any questions in my mind about racism, ageism, or any other of the popular “isms” of our culture. But as a Christian and Baptist, those points raise two other questions that concern me.
Age. Where are our young people? I know that some churches of faith have vibrant youth programs. However, as a rule, are we Christians doing the best to make certain that Christianity continues? Are we following the Great Commission in our own churches, homes, neighborhoods and families? Worshipping last night with the singers and orchestra, I worried, and worry still, of what will sustain that fine group of Christian leaders? I pray that the church will be strong and vibrant, a place where young people find the peace and joy and grace for their souls that only God can give. And I hope that some of them will have musical talents to share, so that the work of the NCBSO will continue.
Had the worship service been led by a secular group, say a local high school or college, I believe, no, I know, that the group would not have been all white. But I find it interesting that no person or persons of color are present. Our society has had battles over integration of schools, lunch counters, movie theaters and other venues. Yet as far as I know, no legal action has even taken place to integrate a church.
I appreciate the different “styles” of worship — the music, the oratory of the pastor, even the participation by the church members in the sanctuary. That is a preference I respect, but why do we worry so for secular equalities while ignoring the possibilities for spiritual equalities? After all, even in the first century, Paul realized the need to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.
We teach segregation in the most important institution of our society. I have grandchildren who, upon seeing three crosses I placed on a garden rock, asked what they were. We have “NONEs” who are rearing their children outside any church. If all this is true, and I write it and believe it, how are we honest when we print “In God We Trust” on our money. Perhaps the hypocrisy of some of our religious actions speaks a sermon.

Roger Barbee lives in Mooresville. Contact Roger at rogerbarbee@gmail.com

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