Merriam-Webster defines community as a unified body of individuals. The word is derived from the Latin word, communitas, which means “the same.” The use of this word is applied when individuals come together with a shared purpose of interest for a public good.
This was on display Sunday evening with Olivet Baptist and Abba’s House joined together for a service of community and unity with a message delivered by Bishop Kevin Adams entitled, “Advance Now.” The crux of the teaching was the need to cultivate and sustain a sense of community in our city that transcends culture, politics and socioeconomics. Instead, the vehicle of established unity presented from the pulpit and God’s Word comes from unified hearts and minds seeing each other as Christ sees.
Looking at the stage, one couldn’t differentiate which members of the combined praise team, or the choir came from which congregation. The audience reflected the same diversity and mix. There were no sections for this membership and sections for that membership. The family of God gathered, fellowshipped, praised, heard the call for action, and responded.
The two congregations are linked through the deep mutual respect and love demonstrated among its leaders. Bishop Kevin Adams was introduced by Abba’s House senior pastor Dr. Ronnie Phillips as the mentor he had when he was spiritually searching in his early twenties while working at a secular job downtown. Growing emotional and clearly sincere, Dr. Ronnie Phillips honored Bishop Kevin Adams with more than simple words.
At the pulpit to deliver the evening message, Bishop Adams reflected upon his teenage years of searching and being on campus at Central Baptist Church, now Abba’s House. He would meet with Dr. Ron Phillips, Sr., then pastor of the Hixson church, for guidance and mentoring. Bishop Adams spoke of getting the cassette tapes of Dr. Phillips’ sermons to study and learn due to his inability at the time to attend formal training and joking how the repeated sermons created the basis for his early ministry.
Seeing three faith leaders within our city model cross-cultural, multigenerational, and mutual respect and authentic love of each other gave no room for any to doubt the fact that their united hearts were the reason such actions were possible. In the gathering of over 500, hands were held extended across race, generation, and status in prayer to accept the challenge of the night, to Advance Now, based on words from the Book of Joshua.
As headlines and social media posts grab our attention about divisiveness, crime, broken homes, students struggling after COVID isolation, and the pressures of life, Chattanoogans are looking to nonprofit organizations for leadership, politicians for legislated solutions and all sorts of institutions for answers.
There are countless houses of worship, just like these two, that contain the possibility of unity, of community and solutions that show us the good of our community. So, as renowned Tennessean and author Alex Haley, admonished, “Find the good and praise it.” Let’s commit to more.