by Sandra K. Chambers
Two congregations in Michigan drew national attention recently when they united to
create a multiracial church
In a city where racial tensions are running high, a recent church
merger has captured the attention of city officials and the local media.
In Battle Creek, Mich., Faith Assembly Christian Fellowship, a mostly
African American congregation, and New Harvest Fellowship, a mostly white congregation,
joined ranks Sunday morning, Nov. 1, to become Faith Assembly International Christian
Shortly before the service, Pastor Larry Silverman and fellow members
of New Harvest Fellowship marched two blocks from their former building to their new
church home at 400 W. Michigan Avenue. Escorted by four robed deacons from Faith Assembly,
the members were greeted warmly at the new church by Bishop Eugene McCoy and his
Arm in arm, McCoy and Silverman made their way down the center aisle to
the front of the church as a crowd of 400 parishioners, guests and press members looked
"The merger ceremony had all the feelings of
a wedding," said Silvermans wife, Connie, who wept quietly during the
Weeks before the merger, the Battle Creek Enquirer ran several stories
about the upcoming event, praising the congregations for their effort to overcome racial
barriers. Battle Creek police chief Jeffrey Kruithoff endorsed the churchs
commitment to an urban ministry that is based on Gods solutions instead of
Television and radio stations from Kalamazoo, Mich., and as far away as
Brooklyn, N.Y., covered the merger. The media has centered on the racial side of the
union, but both McCoy and Silverman say the merger is "a God thing."
"We want to see God move in peoples lives, regardless of
their race or culture," Silverman said. "Our vision is not just for a
black-white church, but for a multiracial congregation where Gods love flows out to
the entire community."
Added McCoy: "When two congregations can come together with a
common vision to serve the community and worship God when so many other churches are
splitting over philosophical differences, thats a miracle."
The two pastors met each other last June when McCoy passed
Silvermans church and heard worship music coming from the same building his
congregation occupied 20 years ago. A nightclub had moved into the location after
McCoys congregation outgrew it, and he had been praying for a church to occupy the
building. He stepped inside to meet the pastor.
"We hit it off right away," Silverman said. "We began to
have lunch together and discovered we had a common vision for the city. Soon we were
preaching at each others services."
In September, McCoy and Silverman invited every church in the area to
join them for a week of services centered on unity and prayer. They called the event
Convocation in Fellowship 98, and 10 area churches responded. McCoy and Silverman
say God soon spoke to them about merging.
"Because our vision was so similar, we realized it didnt
make sense to duplicate our efforts," Silverman said. "We both had a heart for
evangelism and for the inner city."
Faith Assembly will continue to open its doors to prostitutes, drug
addicts and alcoholics who often drift into the church, where they find love and practical
help. A ministry to "latchkey" children is being planned. It will include
computer literacy training, as well as a tutorial program.
Sojourner Truth Leadership Academy, started by Faith Assembly, has
helped more than 500 at-risk children succeed academically by helping them develop skills
and experience Gods love.
What do the two congregations think about the merger?
"All of our people have been very open to it from the
beginning," McCoy said.
Kelly Dotson, a college student from McCoys congregation, told
local news media: "Were a team together now. Black and white, were coming
together to worship God."
People are always curious about the churchs racial harmony, the
pastors say. The two men say that where the love of Christ abounds, tough issues are never
"We may have concerns, but theres nothing we cant talk
about and work out," McCoy said.
McCoys wife, Doris, agreed: "This is a marvelous opportunity
to demonstrate what Jesus meant when He commanded us to love one another.
Reprinted by permission, Charisma Magazine