After the joint All Saints’ Day worship service held by Govans PC and Knox PC on Nov. 6th, Lea Gilmore, Govans’ Minister of Racial Justice and Community Engagement shared, “Yesterday, I had the honor of taking home a wonderful member of Knox Presbyterian. She is a 95-year-old black woman who has seen this world and is more than able to talk about it. As I was taking her home to Turner Station, she shared amazing stories. She is a born and raised Baltimorean. She told me that seeing me at Govans was “…nothing short of a miracle. Black people never felt welcome. Even to step on the grounds was something we knew not to do. When I saw you there, I knew how far we had come. As a Black woman several decades younger, it struck me so. We are fighting with years of internalized reality and perceptions.” Knox members knew immediately that she was speaking about long-time member, Mrs. Mamie Simms.
The Matthew 25 Initiative has been the catalyst for many new relationships in the Presbytery of Baltimore. For more than a year Knox and Govans churches have grown as vital congregations by building a partnership centered around their joint focus on dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty. While Knox is a smaller predominantly Black church in the Oliver community and Govans’ membership is twice as large and predominantly white, the two churches share a commitment to building beloved community together.
“In addition to relationship building between the two congregations, key to the success of the partnership that each church shares in leadership and brings equal value to the table,” said Charese Jordan Moore, elder at Knox and co-chair of the POB Dismantling Racism Team. ”Knox may not have as big building or bank account, but we bring over 90 years of prophetic witness, cultural heritage, and commitment to serving our community. We know our worth and offer our hands in equal partnership.”
Every Wednesday, members of the two churches, as well as a few from other churches, meet for Bible study at noon to share in reflection and perspective on God’s Word. Last year, Rev. Tom Harris (Govans) and Rev. Kevin Johnson (Knox) co-led a Lenten book study of Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman. The study was so enriching that plans are underway to repeat the study with a new book in March 2023. The women of Knox invited the women of Govans to attend its Women of the Bible Tea, and Govans welcomed Knox members to its Music Mondays and racial justice book studies. The two congregations have also established a planning committee to coordinate and plan joint activities. Both churches have food ministries, support local schools and work in other ways to engage their communities. Next year, the congregations hope to further clarify the goals and expectations as the partnership progresses.
“When you get tired and it seems like the momentum is going against us, know that we are making a difference one moment at a time,” said Gilmore. “Yesterday, we saw a glimpse of what we strive to be! Together – Equitably!”
The next joint worship service will be held at Knox on May 7, 2023. Two vital congregations joining hands in praise, love and service.