There was a good crowd at the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches' Festival of Faith last night at Bull Creek Presbyterian Church.
The service included special music from the choirs, praise teams, and bands of four area churches: Bull Creek Presbyterian Church, Trinity United Christian Church, Center United Methodist Church, and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Dr. W. James Legge, President of the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches told about the sixteen programs that AVAC maintains to make a difference in the Valley. The offering at the service was to support the work of AVAC.
Karen Snair, Executive Director of AVAC, introduced the preacher of the evening, the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Monroe, pastor of the Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.
Dr. Monroe's sermon "And the Walls Come Tumbling Down" was based on Ephesians 2:11-21. Speaking out of his experience of racial segregation, Dr. Monroe acknowledged the significance of changes in our society, while pointing to divisions that persist, such as continued divisions of gender, class, and socio-economic status. The tearing down of those walls will be God's work in which we will participate. "Let's walk together" was his closing exhortation.
Following the service there was a time of fellowship and refreshments downstairs. The seats at tables were quickly filled and it was standing room only for those of us who arrived in the fellowship hall last.
While I was finding a place to stand, I walked past a couple of the participants who were talking about the sermon. One of them was saying that he liked a lot of what Dr. Monroe had to say, but that one of the controversial areas of division that he had mentioned "would destroy the church."
The discriminatory divisions that some experience as utterly oppressive are experienced by others as the utterly necessary last stand against the forces of evil and chaos.
Overhearing that snippet of conversation, that continuation of the sermon, has left me probing myself to see where I might be doubting God's power.
I'm glad I came across this article on odyssey that featured a picture of a church sign that says "In a divided society only the Church can model unity."
Update 10-24-06: Added links.