With a vision of unity and diversity within the church, ministers from Forsyth and DeKalb recently partnered to bring both congregations together for a day of worship and a conversation on the importance of unity and acknowledging differences.
Kelvin Teamer serves as a minister at Church of Christ at Bouldercrest, a predominantly Black and African American church southeast of Atlanta in DeKalb County, while Paul Huyghebaert leads the congregation at Grace Chapel Church, which is predominately white.
Both ministers were having similar thoughts surrounding diversity within their churches while reading over Revelation 7 where there is a picture shown of people from all different nations, cultures and backgrounds coming together to sing and praise God.
“We see some things in scripture about unity and unity across racial lines, but as diverse as Atlanta is, it was hard for us to find a church that really reflected that unity,” Teamer said.
That was when Teamer reached out to Huyghebaert, who he has known for several years, to discuss working together. As it turned out, Huyghebaert was also planning to reach out to him.
They continued to think about a partnership over the next few weeks, reflecting on what it might look like for them and their separate churches. During that time, they had an ongoing conversation about thoughts and feelings on why this partnership could be an important step for them, especially considering recent conversations surrounding race and diversity heard across the nation.
Through discussion of the scripture, the two realized that the answer to how they can bring people together is simply through God and worship.
Teamer’s congregation is still virtual as many in DeKalb are still trying to come back from the COVID-19 pandemic, but he reached out to some Bouldercrest Church members to ask them about coming out to Grace Chapel for a service on Sunday, June 27.
Those Teamer reached out to said they were excited to come to the church in Forsyth County and be part of the partnership there. They said they believe it is exactly what the world needs to see right now.
So that Sunday, they all came together, worshiped God, and talked about the importance of the church leading this movement and bringing people together.
“It was really quite emotional just to be next to one another and knowing really what we were at least attempting to do,” Teamer said. “It was wonderful.”
On top of this conversation, Huyghebaert said they also touched on Forsyth County’s difficult history surrounding race. Knowing this history, he said he was humbled when Teamer first reached out to him about bringing the congregations together.
Because many at Bouldercrest are aware of the history in Forsyth, the partnership was important to the church members. Teamer said he asked one woman to attend who had grown up in Atlanta during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and she couldn’t wait to jump on board.
Being part of this change in the churches and in Forsyth County meant a great deal to her.
“There is hard history in Forsyth County,” Huyghebaert said. “But in my time in Forsyth County, I’ve been here six years now, I’ve seen a spirit that wants something much better.”
In the end, the ministers said the service worked out far better than either of them had expected, bringing people together who may have never met or grown close otherwise.
As Bouldercrest begins to move back to in-person services, Teamer has invited everyone from Grace Chapel to visit them in DeKalb. He said many of those in attendance at Grace Chapel came up to him or contacted him after the service to let him know how excited they were to visit.
Similarly, Huyghebaert said he received more than 50 emails and text messages from others at Grace Chapel before the end of the day, expressing how happy they were with the service.
“It’s my hope that Bouldercrest Church becomes my second church family,” he remembered one member texting him.
Teamer and Huyghebaert said they want to continue with the services in the future and hope to bring in an even more diverse group of people to worship under God. Huyghebaert said they have known from the beginning that the partnership needed to be more than a one-time effort.
“This has to be a catalyst for much more,” Huyghebaert said.
They also hope that the partnership can inspire leaders within other churches and congregations to begin thinking about how they, too, can unify their communities.
“We have a deep hope that it doesn’t end with us,” Huyghebaert said. “And that we’re inviting others to come in and join us. If God could grant you some of your biggest dreams, or maybe if you could join God in some of his big dreams, part of me feels like this would be a big chunk of it.”