On Monday, celebrations honoring the civil rights legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took place across the nation, but two local pastors say there is a lot more work to be done when it comes to race in America's churches.
In the 1960s, Dr. King said, "It's appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o'clock on Sunday morning." Recent statistics show that hasn't changed much, and that's why two pastors are trying to be examples of what is possible when two people from two very different backgrounds become friends.
Both pastors head congregations that are becoming more racially diverse, and now, they are partnering and encouraging each other through those growing pains.
Pastor Terrance Rollerson's 20-person congregation meets at a rec center in East St. Paul while Pastor Andy Gray preaches to 300 in a traditional church building in South Minneapolis. The scale and setting is certainly different -- yet, when it comes to race and ethnicity in their churches, both say the struggle with racism and ignorance is the same.
"Black folks would say to me, 'Why would you let your white parishioners call you Terrance? You're the pastor of the church,'" Rollerson said.
A 2008 Pew Research survey shows only a fraction of American congregations are racially integrated. Another sociologist recently came out with a study showing only modest gains.
So, while the nation looks to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his civil rights legacy, both pastors are calling on the church in America to increase cultural intelligence. They plan to do just that through fellowship. Rollerson will preach at Gray's church for the next two and a half years.
"He's here to learn, we're here to learn from him," Gray said. "It's just a beautiful thing of being able to share together."