RUTHERFORDTON — Reverend In-Yong Lee set the tone for a future bi-racial worship service on Tuesday night when she said, “In God we are one. Society lived as if this were not the case.
Lee and the Reverend Henry Kerns are leading an effort to confront racism as religious leaders. Kerns is the pastor of Gold Hill Missionary Baptist Church, next to RS Central High School.
Monday night’s rally at Hope In The City Community Church in Spindale was hosted by Reverend Robert Godfrey, his wife Karen, daughter Aleah and Elder Anitra Smith.
Representatives from Rutherfordton First United Methodist Church, Lee and Gold Hill Pulpit, Wells Spring UMC, Piney Ridge CME Church, Source Ministries and the All Souls Community met with representatives from Hope In The City to plan a bi-racial worship service as a follow-up to what is called a “Truth Cafe”, which was held on February 26.
The “Truth Café” attracted approximately 60 participants who have faced racism in their own lives and in society at large. The rally was sponsored by Gold Hill and Rutherfordton UMC.
Bi-racial service is tentatively set for July 31 at Rutherfordton UMC.
The plan is for black speakers, including Godfrey, and at least one black choir to lead worship. The service will be followed by a meal and a conversation about racial injustice and what can be done to overcome it.
Lee and Kerns are part of the Multifaith Clergy Coalition that meets monthly to fight racial injustice. The MDCC involves about two dozen ministers from some of the largest churches in the county. The MDCC has been meeting since July 2020.
Rutherfordton Mayor Jimmy Dancy was in attendance and praised the anti-racism training he underwent with Lee.
“It educated me and got me thinking,” Dancy said. “The combination of reflection and education has moved me forward, progressed and I think that’s what God wants me to do.”
Reverend Wayne Roberts of The Source Ministries encouraged the group to use the after-service meal “as a workshop. This allows for giving and receiving, a meaningful conversation.
Lee echoed the need for the experience to “be meaningful.” Several speakers said that, as meaningful as pulpit and choir exchanges may be, what is needed is an in-depth conversation about the harms of racism and what people have survived.
Godfrey said a lot of effort came from little more than talk. He said we’ve reached a point, “where we don’t just talk about it. We have to do something.
Dancy praised the Gateway Foundation for efforts on John Smith Road to build affordable housing, which he acknowledged was badly needed.
When asked if he felt Rutherfordton City Council’s support for more affordable housing, he said: “It’s there. It doesn’t just come. He is right there in front of us. Rents are rising. This is a problem that we recognize.
Lee encouraged the group to be consistent and not lose enthusiasm for work in the churches that were represented and beyond.