2 local pastors leading the conversation about race, divided nation reflect on Capitol riot

In Black and White

It’s safe to say most people believe our nation is divided. People everywhere are wondering how we ever get past it, especially given the events of the last week.

“I think it’s disheartening because I’ve seen people Black and white to be divided over some of the silliest things,” Pastor Derrick Hawkins said.

Hawkins leads The Refuge-Greensboro. Pastor Jay Stewart leads The Refuge Church in Kannapolis. We’ve shared their story with you before – two pastors of different races and backgrounds whose churches merged. These two men show that people really can have conversations about the things that tend to divide.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in America over the last six or seven decades,” Stewart said. “But we still have a long way to go. So there are going to be some tough conversations that are going to have to be had. But the thing between Pastor Derrick and I is that … we’re in this for life.”

While many pointed to a perceived racial double standard between the scene at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and the summer’s protests for racial equality, these two say it’s much bigger than that.

“I think we can categorize it by ethnicity or race, but I think there’s a spirit of the age that seeks to destroy and divide our nation,” Hawkins said. “Of course spirits can be controlled by people. I would say our goal as the church and the body of Christ is to pray against the spirit that seeks to divide us.”

Like spiritual leaders around the country, Stewart held a special prayer in the hours after the Capitol attack.

“I feel like as a leader that one of the greatest things I can do is call people to the place of prayer,” he said. “I don’t think you can legislate unity. I don’t think you can mandate unity. But I believe the holy spirit has the ability, when we get in his presence, to create what we cannot create.”

Since we last talked, they released a book about their six-year journey — “Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last.” They believe all they’ve learned by being honest with one another and with themselves is something that can help our nation heal from one of the darkest days in our history.

“The reality is we are better together,” Stewart said. “And we accomplish more, we learn more, and we grow more when we do life together. So in the midst of went down last week, and the shambles of destruction that we have to deal with at this point, I would say again that we have to value relationship more than we value being right.”

“We can overcome the struggles if we stay in unity,” Hawkins said. “But everybody’s heart is not for unity. And that’s the thing we have to understand. But we have to stay in the spirit and partner with those who see it doesn’t take much.”

One other piece of advice from those two pastors is for everyone to know when to cut off social media and national news media and just unplug.

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