JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. - Wesley United Methodist Church, a predominantly African-American church, and Wall Street United Methodist Church, a predominantly white church, once had a history together.
The two Jeffersonville churches used to hold frequent joint services and activities - but that had petered out in recent years.
In February they took a first step toward re-establishing that relationship.
The choirs of the two churches held a combined concert the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 15 at Wesley, with about 100 people from both churches turning out to see the approximately 40-person-strong choir.
The choirs sang hymns and old-time Gospel, both together and apart, showcasing the diversity in musical styles at the two churches. The intermingled audience seemed to appreciate both with equal gusto.
"Just to see the churches get back together in unity I think is a great thing," said Roderick Denning, trustee chairman at Wesley. "Why? Well, for the fellowship; to show there's no racism; that we can all work together; and we're all God's children. We're all Christian. One church, one body - that's us."
The Rev. Gil Hubbard, pastor at Wall Street, said his church members and choir were "delighted" to be at Wesley for the special 4 o'clock service. The two churches have a rich tradition and history together, and the two choirs are great in their own individual rights, but explosive together.
"This concert will enable Wesley and Wall Street to do more together in a ministry cluster with six other Jeffersonville-Clarksville United Methodist churches," Hubbard said.
That February was also Black History Month was significant for the event, but not its primary reason, he said.
"Especially February but not only this month, it's healthy for United Methodists and Christians to be together and to praise God together regardless of the color of our skin," Hubbard said. "That's what we're doing here."
The Rev. Jean Wilson, pastor at Wesley, said leaders of the two churches had often talked before about doing something like yesterday's joint concert, "and now finally we are doing it again."
The churches are working on tentative plans to do another joint service of some kind around Easter and plan to try to hold at least one service together annually, if not more often, she said.
"It's what we should be doing in the first place," Wilson said, "all of us working together, worshiping together, serving God together."
Sharon Elliott-Fox and husband Bill Fox, of Scottsburg, came down to Jeffersonville for the concert. The couple attend Wall Street, and Bill Fox said he used to be involved when the two churches would hold events like yesterday's concert.
"This is a great tradition to re-start," he said.
Helen Bryant, 91, has been a member of Wesley for about 65 years and fondly remembers when the two churches were more closely involved. With good friends who are members of Wall Street, she said the churches holding a combined concert was "very enjoyable."
"I'm just glad that it's something that is going to happen again," Bryant said.
This story was published with permission of The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky. c 2009 All rights reserved.