(WGHP) — As the dust settled from attack at the U.S. Capitol last January, we asked pastors Derrick Hawkins and Jay Stewart a question: Where do we go from here?

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

“In the midst of what 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,” said Pastor Jay.

We’ve followed their story for three years. Two pastors – one black, one white – who formed a friendship, merged their churches and wrote a book about their experience called “Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last.”

“I’m so thankful that God allowed us to be the ones to help write a better narrative, and our nation needs that,” said Pastor Jay.

Pastor Derrick told FOX8 they’ve had the privilege to share their story all across the world.

Until the end of 2021, he led The Refuge Church (Greensboro Campus), a satellite of The Refuge Church in Kannapolis started by Pastor Jay in 2004. Pastor Derrick is now executive pastor at the main campus. Pastor Jay says he needed his leadership, especially to help oversee the work the church will continue to do in the Triad. That he’s a person of color is a bonus.

“We want what’s represented on our staff to represent our hearts,” he said. “So if I’ve got an all-white staff, yet I’m talking about racial unity, there’s a conflict there. So I love that our staff is very diverse.”

Their relationship is a real-life example that lasting racial unity is possible.

“I would definitely say there’s been progress. One of the things we’re hearing that ‘Welded’ is doing is helping people to just know how to start a conversation,” Pastor Jay explained. “And for a lot of people, that’s a fearful thing. They don’t know what to say or they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. They don’t know what to say, or they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. And I think ‘Welded’ has just given them a few tools to know how to have the conversation or even to just approach someone who looks different than they do and just say, ‘Let’s go have coffee or let’s have lunch together.'”

“Of course, there are still things that need to improve,” Pastor Derrick added. “But we’re making the effort to change what we can change in our own space. So that’s what we’re doing here at the Refuge at all of our campuses. We’re keeping the conversation of race on the forefront. But we’re moreso living it out in our everyday lives.”

Some may say the church is not the place for these kinds of conversations. But as these two continue their work in and around the Piedmont Triad and beyond, they say if not here then where?

“I think the conversation of race belongs in the church first and foremost, that before we can fix the White House, we have to fix the church house,” Pastor Jay said.

“I would say the conversation of race or any subject that may be taboo to the world needs to be the emphasis of the church,” added Pastor Derrick. “I think we’re called to be the salt of the Earth. That’s our responsibility to be conduits for change.”

The work toward racial unity continues at The Refuge Church Greensboro Campus. Next week, we’ll show you why the couple that now leads that congregation and the work happening on that campus in East Greensboro to advance the cause of race relations is just right for the call.