By Emily Younker
The pastors of several local churches, including two of Joplin’s historically black churches, will serve as hosts for a multi-ethnic, interdenominational worship service Sunday to celebrate diversity.
“What we’re hoping to see happen is two things: Just to recognize the contributions of the African-American community in Joplin, but also to broaden the vision of the church, of what the church can be in Joplin,” said Travis Hurley, one of the organizers.
Hurley, who works in the development office of Ozark Christian College and previously was pastor of a predominantly black church near Washington, D.C., said the service will include speakers, prayer and communion. Choirs from College Heights Christian Church, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church and Unity Missionary Baptist Church, as well as the hip-hop duo Once Lost, will perform.
There will also be recognition of the late Duncan and Laura Brown for their efforts in Joplin during the civil rights movement, with a special presentation by Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean to the Browns’ daughter, Denice Brown, Hurley said.
Those involved with the planning of the event come from different cultural, ethnic and denominational backgrounds, and include the Rev. Samuel Nero Jr., Gloria Faine and Patsy Robinson, of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church; the Rev. Rufus Kelly, of Unity Missionary Baptist Church; Neri Ramos, of Iglesia Cristiana Hispanoamericana; Howie Nunnelly, of Impact Life Church; Phil Mehrens, of Wellspring Church; Greg Spink, of Mount Hope Church of Christ; and Jay St. Clair, of College Heights Christian Church.
“We’ve tried to be as diverse as we can with all the people represented,” Hurley said.
The event was originally created by Nero and other leaders at Shiloh Missionary Baptist to be a Martin Luther King Jr. service in January, Hurley said. They decided to move the service to this month in conjunction with Black History Month and broaden the focus to make it a “multi-ethnic worship experience,” he said.
“The idea is we don’t want to act like we’re color-blind because that doesn’t accomplish anything,” he said. “We want to see color not as a reason to be judgmental or prejudiced, but to see color as an expression in creativity. When we come together, it makes the ‘whole’ stronger as well.”
Unity in the Community, a worship service with a special emphasis on diversity, is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday in the Ozark Christian College chapel, 1111 N. Main St. It is open to the public.