What: Worship service with Air Line Baptist Church in East Hall and St. John Baptist Church in Gainesville
When: 11 a.m. Sunday
Where: St. John Baptist, 757 E.E. Butler Parkway, Gainesville
In the wake of racially charged shootings that have rocked America, two Hall County churches are doing their part to change what Martin Luther King Jr. once said at about 11 a.m. Sunday being the “most segregated hour in Christian America.”
After Sunday school wraps up this Sunday, members of the traditionally white Air Line Baptist Church in East Hall plan to travel to traditionally black St. John Baptist Church in Gainesville for joint worship.
The service has been described in a brief announcement “as a display of love and unity in the body of believers, regardless of race.”
“Some of my congregation had suggested to me that we find some way of expressing our unity in Christ in this community,” said Scott W. Moore, Air Line’s senior pastor.
“We’re going to do something to make sure Gainesville doesn’t become the next Ferguson, Dallas or Baton Rouge. We want our community to understand that no matter what the color of your skin is, that we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ.”
He suggested a joint service to St. John pastor Stephen Samuel, who welcomed the idea.
“From both sides, we felt it was something that needed to happen as a response to what’s taking place, as a show of Christian solidarity,” Samuel said.
Last week’s deadly week culminated Thursday when five Dallas police officers were killed while standing guard as hundreds of people peacefully protested the police killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota earlier in the week.
The gunman, a black Army veteran killed by police, had portrayed the attack as payback for the fatal police shootings.
“We hate to see any level of violence, whether that be in the form of what’s perceived to be police brutality or in seeking revenge,” Samuel said.
“I think we, as a nation, have to come to grips with that,” he said. “As a pastor, it’s easy for us to say that sin is real and evil in the world is real, but the thing is it spirals into so many areas.
“... You hate to see that there is no conversation, no understanding, that there’s such a divide.” Moore said he believes that talking about the causes behind such discord isn’t particularly productive.
“I don’t find it productive to assign blame,” he said. “I think the most important thing to do is figure out how we can fix it and where do we go from here.
“The church has sat back and complained, and we just spend time griping … with the rest of the world. I think the church needs to take the lead on this in directing our country toward healing.”