As our congregation is preparing to celebrate Black History Month, I have been thinking about what draws us together and what pulls us apart. There is a song we enjoy singing, called “Walls Mark Our Bound’ries.” The words are moving:
“Walls mark our bound’ries and keep us apart.
“Walls make us sure who is in and who’s out.
“But at a table in open exchange
“New bonds are formed as our lives rearrange.
“So build us a table and tear down the walls.
“Christ is our host. There is room for us all.”
There are so many criteria that we use to separate one from another. It is not just our racial ethnicity. We have different genders, ages, economic classes, political affiliations and professional identities — just to get started. We sing and we claim an identity as children of God. We celebrate our diversity and the common ground we have in Jesus the Christ. Within the churches of Patterson, we find a diverse group of people who might not all be together for any other purpose but to worship the same God. We are saying to the world that what holds us together is far more important than all the ways we could be divided.
The Jan. 21 community prayer breakfast was a gathering around tables, which brought down walls and brought churches together. I want to share a story about building bridges:
“A young boy from a non-Christian family named Palmer Ofuoku was placed in a mission school by his Nigerian parents because they knew he would receive a good education there. He attended the school for years, yet he did not convert to Christianity. He remained an adherent of a traditional African religion.
One year, a new missionary came to the school and began to develop close relationships with the students, including Palmer. Eventually, the missionary led this young Nigerian to Christ. Palmer Ofuoku explained the missionary’s influence like this: “He built a bridge of friendship to me, and Jesus walked across.”
That is the best definition of evangelism that I have ever heard. That’s what you and I should be doing each day of our lives — building bridges of friendship to the people around us so that Jesus may walk across.
My hope is that the churches of Patterson continue to build bridges and tear down walls, sharing Jesus with our community. Our community will be a better place. We can celebrate our diversity and still join hands in unity and common purpose.
• The Rev. Kevin Campbell is pastor of the Federated Methodist-Presbyterian Church. Sermon Notes is a column by local religious leaders.