Central Indiana churches unite to fight racism
Tucked away at the edge of a small town with a bad reputation, the Eastview Christian Church in Martinsville celebrates unconditional love for the human race in their annual unity celebration titled “United at the Foot of the Cross — Still Together.” A true celebration of faith and humanity, this gathering has been going strong for three years, with this being the biggest assembly yet, filling nearly every seat in this large church with men, women and children of all races and religions.
Since the ’50s and ’60s, Martinsville, Ind., has been known for large gatherings of the Ku Klux Klan, which advocated racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism and homophobia. There have also been reports of violence and even murder in the town by KKK affiliates. Such hatred and violence has been abolished for a long time now, but the town still carries a stigma from those bygone days.
None of this was evident Sunday, Nov. 19, when members of many churches from Martinsville and Indianapolis came together for the Sunday afternoon service.
In 2003, Martinsville-based Wendi Middleton wanted to make a difference in her community by inviting her African-American friends from Indianapolis to worship service. Those friends had often asked her how she could live in a place with such a reputation for violence and racism. So Middleton arranged to have them come to Martinsville to worship with members of her community. She enlisted the help of best friend Tamiko Neely from Indianapolis and they gathered their respective churches, as well as others from Morgan County and Indianapolis, for the first annual “United at the Foot of the Cross” service.
The original service was held at the Martinsville Church of God with over 200 people in attendance. Attendance has grown every year.
During last month’s ceremony, 15 pastors stood up to show just how many different churches were represented.
A choir made up of members from the founding churches in Indianapolis and Martinsville sang energetic hymns as the congregants in the pews let the music inspire them to sing and dance. Pastor Dilbert Watts Sr. of Indianapolis delivered a message of joy and gratefulness to the crowd, who listened intently as he recalled his delight at being able to share his faith with others with no regard for the politics of segregation. He reminded everyone that the greatest day would be the day this service was no longer newsworthy, the day it was considered the norm for African-Americans to worship in Martinsville.
For more information contact Wendi Middleton at 317-691-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org