GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — When Josh and Amy Wilkerson were asked to take over as pastors of The Refuge Church-Greensboro Campus, Amy said absolutely not.
“There’s a weight that comes on your family, and I said I would never do that to my children. So never say never,” she said with a laugh.
Josh had a different reaction, though he kind of expected it would happen.
The Wilkersons are an interracial couple. They’re both originally from Rockingham County. Pastor Amy is a preacher’s kid.
“I grew up in a very white world and didn’t realize it,” she said. “And I didn’t realize it until I opened up my heart not just to Joshua, but to other people that didn’t look like me.”
“It’s not that many churches that embrace interracial marriages,” Pastor Josh explained. “They say they do, but when you get in the church, either everybody’s looking at me or everybody’s looking at my wife. We never wanted that, especially if we were going to have a child.”
Which they did last year.
The Wilkersons found refuge at The Refuge, a multi-racial church in east Greensboro she calls a melting pot.
“We each have our own preference of how we like to worship. But my preference and your preference shouldn’t keep us from being able to be together on a Sunday,” she said.
“I can give them a little bit of what I call my roots, and I can hoop a little bit while Amy can come up here and say ‘come on. Let’s lift up the name of Jesus,’ and it’s all accepted in the same house,” he added.
The church’s long-time leader, pastor Derrick Hawkins, partnered in conversations about race with pastor Jay Stewart who is with The Refuge Church in Kannapolis. Hawkins is now there full-time. One of his duties is to oversee the work happening in Greensboro where the Wilkersons now lead. That includes the conversations they’ve had both in their house and at the church house.
“I got up one morning, and my wife cried,” he said. “Tears rolling down her face because she was scared of what could happen to me on my way to work. I’m just trying to go to work and make a living for my family, for my wife and for my son, and she’s crying because she’s scared if I won’t even come back.”
“So to be able to have a community outside our home that understood what I was feeling in that moment, I needed it more than I could ever convey in words,” she added.
She says it’s refreshing.
As they do ministry, they’re intentional about tackling issues as a church, which only makes them stronger.
“I love that it’s not one-sided. I love that the white community wants to talk about it and wants to learn just as much as the Black community wants to learn. And I love that we can have open honest conversations, and there isn’t an offense,” Pastor Amy said.
“Why shouldn’t we talk about something that we deal with every day? If we can’t talk about what we deal with every day in church, where else are we going to talk about it?” Pastor Josh said.
Pastor Amy says God can’t heal what we don’t confront.
“So there has to be this thing in us, this motivation in us to confront the hard things in this season in life so that people can heal, so there can be real restoration,” she said.
Add reconciliation to that list on the east side.
“I think with just where we’re located, obviously East Greensboro, a lot of people identify that with a certain culture,” explained Pastor Josh. “So we’re going to help our community. We’re going to help the people on East Bessemer, but we want to help the people that live on Friendly just as much as we help the people on East Bessemer.”