Black and white congregations merge into single church - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Black and white congregations merge into single church

By Shayla Reaves - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE)- An historic moment Sunday for two Louisville churches as Shively Heights Baptist Church and St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church held their first service as a united body. The move will bring both their members together and also their resources.

After nine months of planning, the two Louisville churches have become one united body. Sunday marked the first merged service of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church and Shively Heights Baptist Church. About 600 people attended.

"We hope we can get to the point where we no longer say, black church, white church but the church," said Mark Payton, pastor of the predominantly-white Shively Heights Baptist Church at 2627 Crums Lane.

The new merged church is called St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights. Payton and Lincoln Bingham are the pastors.

"This guy invited me to preach a revival 25 years ago when he was just getting started," said Bingham, pastor of the predominantly-African American St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church at 728 East Lampton Street. "We've been friends ever since that time...we've been building for this a long time."

Payton came up with the idea to merge as a way to reach new members and join resources to do more in the lagging economy. That's when he contacted Bingham and the two started the process of combining their ministries and their missions.

"The majority of our congregation is 75 years and older and so we were not going to reach our community and the community was changing," Payton said. "So Lincoln and I got together and we said lets bring our churches together to reach this community."

Already the pastors say the merger will mean help managing church administrative duties.

For some, the merger is a sign of changing times.

"Back in the 50s, a home was bombed in Shively of a black family and 50 years later here, we have a black congregation and a white congregation coming together to merge in a city that was once known for bombings such as that," visiting pastor William G. Nelson said.

Now members are writing the history they want to leave behind.

"I feel like now that we should ignore the colors and I believe it is coming about," said Cleo Lockard, a member of Shively Baptist Church for 12 years.

"People are receptive to change and people are excited," Sunday school teacher Ava Bingham-Reynolds said.

While Shively Heights is the location of the new merged church, not everyone is happy about what's happening with St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.

Mary Pickett has been a member there for 51 years. She said she is not opposed to the merger, she just doesn't want to see the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Building, where Bingham served as pastor, close.

"Somebody should be able to do something for our church to be open, " said Pickett. "Him being a man, a man of the cloth, he should step down and let somebody take over our church."

We asked Bingham about the building's future.

"We don't know just yet, there will be some discussion about it but some kind of christian ministry will always be there, we won't turn it over just to anybody," he said.

We're told St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church turns 120 years old this year.

(Copyright 2009 WAVE-TV and Raycom Media. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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