Churches amp up efforts to bring races together for reconciliation

Claude Powe, a motorcycle pastor and former Black Panther, and Roger Gales, pastor of Heritage Christian Fellowship Church in San Clemente, stand arm in arm while a mostly white congregation sings “Amazing Grace.”

“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear / And grace my fears relieved.”

It’s an old hymn generally thought to focus on seeing the light of the Lord. But on this day, the song takes on new meaning and offers newfound grace.

The service is almost entirely devoted to a panel of African Americans discussing what it’s like to be black in America. The mission is to make a dent in racism, help people of all colors put away their fears, talk together, discover comfort in unity.

Yet what matters is that Heritage Christian is not alone.

In small but increasingly significant ways, the tolerance preached in San Clemente is quietly spreading through a variety of denominations across the nation.

In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death, the assassination of five police officers in Dallas, the killing of nine black church members in Charleston, S.C., rabbis and imams, pastors and priests are beginning to place an emphasis on ending racism that has been muted for too long.

At a Vatican-sponsored inequality conference in California on Feb. 17, speakers urged the Roman Catholic church to acknowledge its own racism. In a separate talk, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez condemned the White House for recent actions, “They’re playing with people’s emotions and toying with their lives and futures, and that is not right.”

In Concord, N.C., Trinity United Church of Christ holds weekly anti-racism meetings based on 12-step programs.

In Orange County, Christ our Redeemer — affiliated with the African American Episcopal Church — and The Cloud Church, a predominantly Latino church, have pulpit and congregation swaps. Pastors at churches in Dallas do the same.

In Maine, the United Church of Christ urges members to read Paul Kivel’s book,…

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