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Reconciliation and reflection

By Tonya S. Swindell

A celebratory atmosphere filled the Ghent campus of New Life Church in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Purposeful reflection and active reconciliation was the focus of an event organized by Pastors David McBride and Joel Solomon. Multicultural participants worshipped, then listened to “A Knock at Midnight,” a speech made by King. Joy Langley sang a beautiful rendition of “Precious Lord.” Two white and two African-American speakers shared thought-provoking perspectives.

Pastor Kevin Tremper described what it’s like to be a white father of five children, including a black, 10-year-old adopted son. He highlighted barriers and benefits of reconciliation. Pride was a barrier. Humility was a benefit.

Dr. Marsha Staples defined apathy as “not caring” or “lacking enthusiasm.” In contrast, empathy was “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” A quote by King evidenced his disdain for lackadaisical attitudes: “We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith but superstition.”

While discussing fear and courage, Nigel Anderson described how people retreat into “corners of comfort” to avoid people who are different. He promoted a “vertical” relationship with God that enhances “horizontal” relationships with others. Anderson emphasized listening and authentic communication.

Dr. Diane Chandler taught how Rosa Parks refused to stand on an Alabama bus, resulting in a boycott led by King in 1955. He was 26 years old. Chandler also acknowledged how King’s “I Have a Dream” speech impacted multiple generations.

Senior Pastor and Founder Dan Backens and Co-Founder and Pastor Kevin Turpin reiterated that the imprint of God resides in everyone. They alluded to the unique way in which Backens, a white man from South Dakota, and Turpin, an African-American from New York, founded a multi-ethnic church in Virginia. In small groups, participants prayed for more unifying experiences.

Pastor McBride interviewed David Foster and Yanina James, New Life Church members who use the strength of their differences to co-lead a racial reconciliation group. Yanina, a beautiful young woman of African-American and Hispanic descent, shared how the Bible’s Good Samaritan story sparked intentionality and compassion. David, a friendly older white gentleman, likened the achievement of multi-ethnicity to a sprint and said reconciliation is more like a marathon because it requires time and training. The event ended with participants reaching across aisles to grasp hands and pray. Service was encouraged through Life Enrichment Center tutoring program, reconciliation life group and book club.

While reflecting on reconciliation, I considered how much I enjoyed eating, talking and laughing with friends of different backgrounds. I also recalled hymnal lyrics that expressed hope while acknowledging our past: “We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His holy Word, He’s never failed me yet. Ooh ooh ooh, can’t turn around. We’ve come this far by faith.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us reconciliation requires humility, empathy and courage. Acknowledgement of our progress is beneficial. Our march toward unity is continual.


Tonya Swindell writes a blog for www.inspirenewlife.org and is a teacher for Kingdom Building Equipping School (KBES.com). She can be reached at 1brightot@gmail.com.