Sunday mornings have been described as the most segregated time of the week in America. However, last Sunday, May 24, two churches engrained in the Honey Creek community - Old Pleasant Hill Baptist Church with a traditionally black congregation and Trinity Baptist Church with a traditionally white congregation - came together for a joint worship service in observance of Pentecost.
The Pentecost, celebrated 50 days after Easter, is when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, according to the New Testament.
Approximately 180 people attended the joint service, held at Old Pleasant Hill, 300 Honey Creek Road.
The two churches, inspired by a passion for uniting the community and for making the Gospel accessible, came together not only to observe Pentecost, but also to celebrate unity and diversity within the Honey Creek community.
"This service was the result of [Trinity Baptist] Pastor Joe [LaGuardia] and I both having the passion for unity in the Body of Christ, as well as in the community," said Old Pleasant Hill Baptist Church Pastor Layne Fields. "We both believe that it is of utmost importance for the church to intentionally be at the forefront of racial, social, and economic reconciliation. Since the biblical celebration of Pentecost is the living embodiment of reconciliation, the calendar just naturally defaulted to that date."
According to according to Trinity Baptist Church Pastor Joe LaGuardia, this service was particularly significant when considering the demographics of both churches. He previously wrote that, "historically, Trinity Baptist Church has been primarily a ‘white' congregation, whereas Old Pleasant Hill Baptist has been primarily African-American."
"You can't understand us without understanding our demographic," LaGuardia said.
Both organizations hoped this service will send a message of unity through the community, in a growingly diverse area where as many as 60 percent of people are unaffiliated with a church, according to the Stone Mountain Baptist Association; both churches feel that the event was successful in making that message heard.
"Trinity Baptist is deeply committed to the local community, social justice, and peacemaking/reconciliation efforts, so meeting with our neighbors at [Old Pleasant Hill] communicated two things: Our solidarity with the African-American community in our immediate neighborhood, and the commitment of both churches to be the presence of Christ in the Honey Creek area," said LaGuardia.
"This joint worship experience was a demonstration to the community that God's people, regardless of race and ethnicity, can function on one accord, and be in one place with unity and harmony. Ultimately, the community will be impacted positively because there are two like-minded congregations that are willing to face the race issue head-on. We have demonstrated that genuine Christian love for God and love for others can and will break down racial barriers," said Fields.
Both churches consider the joint service a great success. LaGuardia said the response from the community has been "very positive." Fields said, "Our congregation was so pleased with this experience that they're already asking when the next joint service is going to be held."
This wasn't the first time the two churches had joined together in a joint service. "Trinity Baptist Church and Old Pleasant Hill Baptist have always had a good relationship, and we used to have joint services frequently years ago, so this service was a continuation of our warm friendship over the years," LaGuardia said. "Our last joint service was in 2007 I believe."
This joint service will not be the last between the two churches; Trinity Baptist Church and Old Pleasant Hill are planning to come together again in the fall.
For more information, contact Joe LaGuardia of Trinity Baptist Church at firstname.lastname@example.org, Layne Fields of Old Pleasant Hill Baptist Church at email@example.com, or visit the Trinity website at www.trinityconyers.org or the Old Pleasant Hill Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/Old-Pleasant-Hill-Baptist-Church/145713888803304 ).