By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
BOWIE, Md.—The members of Cresthill Baptist Church Church are celebrating Black History Month and they’re expanding the emphasis to include appreciation for the diversity in their fellowship and to foster deep lasting relationships. They are using a prayer emphasis to help people from different races, ethnic groups and generations connect, getting past the typical “Hi, how are you?” Sunday morning greetings.
“We want to broaden…not just broaden black and white, but to cover the multicultural, multinational rainbow,” Jimmy Painter, senior pastor of Cresthill Church, said.
The church invited several African American pastors to preach through the month, including Eric Redmond, Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.; James Dixon, Jr., of El Bethel Baptist Church, Fort Washington; and Bernard Fuller, pastor of New Song Bible Fellowship, Bowie.
Since the congregation considers itself (in the words of Jimmy Painter): “a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-national, multi-linguistic, multi-generational bunch of blood-bought, Bible-taught Jesus freaks,” they decided to use the special emphasis to help the church bond on a deeper level.
At the beginning of February, Painter asked everyone in the congregation to find someone different from themselves—a different race, ethnic group, culturally or even generationally. These team members exchanged information and committed to being prayer partners for the month. Spiritual Warfare Director/Prayer Minister Mike Callahan and his volunteers helped members connect to form the teams.
“Ideally, they’ll get together and pray face to face, but it can be at Starbucks, at the gym…they can meet at the church, we’ll find room,” Painter said, noting they can connect on the phone, through social media, whatever works for them.
*The purpose of this month’s emphasis is to help our people step into their destiny-what God foreordained for them and for our church. That involves building friendships within our Body, but more so, that to a watching world, they would see that if people who outwardly have little or nothing in common can bridge those gaps, love God and love one another, then they can too, and thus come to Christ,” Jimmy Painter said.
Painter and his wife, Margot, who serves as accounting specialist at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, have ministered at Cresthill for 20 years.
“When Margot and I came to Cresthill, it was a predominantly white community on the edge of Prince George’s County. Over the years, that has changed and it has become more evenly balanced.”
According to the U.S. Census 2012, though predominantly African-American, Prince George’s County is multiethnic with over 65 percent black, 27 percent white, over 15 percent Hispanic and over 4 percent Asian.
“The idea is that this will turn into lasting friendships,” Painter said.