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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Church Partnership Between Westwood and Fort Thomas Churches Spans Racial Divide


Foreword by Sy Young:

With all of the racial tension lately, especially in Cincinnati, I am compelled to share a story with you. This is a story that paints a very different picture of the state of racial relations in Cincinnati. It is about a 10 year partnership between the people of East Westwood 3rd Presbyterian Church and Fort Thomas First Presbyterian Church. 

The story is about fellowship and love regardless of their very different racial demographics. For 10 years, First Presbyterian Church of Fort Thomas has traveled to East Westwood to put on Vacation Bible School with the community and Third Presbyterian Church there on McHenry Ave. The photo (above)  tells you much of the story as well.

(This is a) great story, especially in a time where Cincinnati needs to believe in the good of people who extend their love to each other unconditionally. 

By Jake Donelan 

Two words can sum up a majority of our nation’s rich yet battered history—God and Race.

One is the very reason this nation exists—a freedom to worship according to one’s own beliefs.  Yet, it’s a word that is quickly becoming scarce in public vocabulary.  The other for years has been the hot hand to deal for Twitter feeds, newspaper headlines, magazine covers and news show teasers.

Race’s glooming presence over the country continues to move our nation’s leaders to strategize more around identifying with a race than of a nation of a people.  You may see a certain leader touting his blackness, candidates flaunting their Hispanic roots, and others flashing white entrenched grassroots agenda.  Much of this may be more perception than reality—spoon-fed to us by media outlets that are more about sensationalism than they are reporting news.

Recent events in our own region have done more to push race relations to a breaking point instead of a making point.  Just prior to the events near UC that struck our region, we witnessed a white mayor and a black police chief publicly bickering about crime with a consequence of furthering racial divides.  Once again, perception or reality?

Unfortunately, perception is reality. But this not a hopeless cause.

By most accounts, the community of East Westwood, a predominantly black community, wouldn’t be the first place one would look to as an example for race relations.  Yet, a community known more for a public reputation of drugs, violence and poverty is home to a place of love, hope and fellowship—all races welcome.

Make your way up Westwood Northern Boulevard’s rolling hills and make a hard right onto McHenry Avenue.  Among the littered street sits an unimposing brick building—painted white of all things.  Welcome to Third Presbyterian Church.  A house of, dare we say it, God.  It’s a house where all are welcome because all are children of God.  And for ten years, it is the site of something our region and nation could take note of.

For ten mostly hot summers, the communities of East Westwood and Third Presbyterian Church have been the site of five days of Vacation Bible School.  These communities have welcomed members and volunteers from Fort Thomas First Presbyterian year after year with open arms.  First Presbyterian Church as a congregation is nearly as white as the paint that covers the building at Third.  But colors don’t matter when these communities come together—except maybe to differentiate crew leaders from kids.  Recently, this celebration of God and community has since welcomed Westwood First Presbyterian and Knox Presbyterian churches as well.

Stop for just a moment.

Can you hear it?  Children laughing.  People singing.  Friends sharing handshakes, hugs and spreading love.  Homemade, handwritten signs of thanks.  None done with a thought of color.    
God has brought these churches together each year to hear and spread His word, sing, dance, eat, play games and best of all—love one another.  White or black.  Old or young.  Rich or poor.  All come together in God’s house to love one another.  Friendships forged in the grace and mercy of God’s endless love not the pigment he created.

Peggy, Christine, Reggie—big and little, Rodney, Terry, Milt, Jessica, Kelly, Jake, Frank, Judy, Barb, Michelle, Trina, Conner, Haley, Elijah, Sebastian, Diamond, Isaiah, Nyasia, Trumell, Pete, Jenna, Mariah, Nicole, Susan, Chris, Carly, Barry, Diamond and countless others celebrating as we all should—blind to the colors of skin.

Each one choosing instead to see that we are all one as children of God—fulfilling the second commandment to love they neighbor as thyself. God created all races.  He did not create the divide.
Continue to love one another as God would.  Shout His name.  To show your neighbor love, is to show God your love.

You make a difference.  You are the difference. PRAISE GOD!

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