crowd of 275 Christians from different races and denominations – ranging from charismatic, Baptist, Methodist and more – gathered at Parkside Elementary School on a misty and foggy Saturday morning, January 19th for the United Prayer March, an event to express the unity of the local church on the issue of racial reconciliation. The threat of rain didn’t stop them.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” a crowd of diverse Christians sang while they walked down the newly renamed United Avenue in downtown Atlanta, GA.
Many wore shirts that said “Reconcile” or “Revive”, the two goals of the OneRace Movement in Atlanta that began three years ago with a handful of pastors in the Atlanta area that were burdened with the sins of racism and religion in our country.
The OneRace Movement made headlines in August 2018 with a large prayer and worship gathering at Stone Mountain, the place of the rebirth of the KKK in 1915 with a burned cross. At Stone Mountain that day, thousands from across the state and the country, even a few from other countries worldwide, gathered to denounce racism in all its forms as contrary to the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. Pastors and lay leaders prayed, worshiped and repented throughout the day.
But that was only the beginning of the OneRace Movement: not the end. There have been other unity movements throughout the years only to return to the same divisions in the church and the community. The leaders and founders of the OneRace Movement knew it had to go deeper to really impact lasting change. It had to include real relationships between the diverse expressions of the church. Reconciliation doesn’t happen without deeper relationships.
The United Prayer March is another step in this movement towards racial reconciliation and unity in the church.
The United Prayer March is another step in the movement towards racial reconciliation and unity in the Church.
United Avenue was once Confederate Avenue, a mostly residential street that runs from the Grant Park neighborhood through downtown Atlanta. It was named Confederate Avenue a century ago since it ran close to Oakland Cemetery, which is where more than 6 thousand confederate soldiers are buried.
But now a large portion of the residents on the street are African American, and the name of the street brought up feelings of slavery, oppression and Jim Crow. Beginning in 2017, a community organization formed called Neighbors for a New Name. It went through the process of local city government, and in September of 2018, after community input to the new name, Confederate was changed to United.
This brought a lot of controversy. Some accused the organization of trying to change history or spending too much money, but the overwhelming majority of people in the neighborhood supported changing the name while making clear that their desire was not to deny any local history but instead have a name the whole community could be proud of.
One of the leaders of the community that spoke in support of the change was Pastor Arthur Breland. He is the first African American pastor of the Woodland Hills Baptist Church and also one of the hundreds of pastors in the Atlanta area involved with the OneRace Movement.
Once the name changed, he had an idea. What if the Church – a unified church of all races and denominations – marched and prayed for all the people of Atlanta? What if they came together to bless others in unity on United Avenue? He contacted a nearby white pastor, Matt Armstrong of Village Church of East Atlanta, and they began to meet and pray together for the event.
Over the weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, that idea became a reality. After gathering Christians from all over the city at Parkside Elementary School, Pastor Breland prayed over the people and the church to break racism and prejudice in their hearts. Then, Armstrong prayed for the Kingdom and reconciliation.
Pastor Billy Humphrey and Bishop Garland Hunt – the two pastors who initiated the OneRace Movement – also prayed that the Church in Atlanta would be unified and become a house for God’s glory. Bishop Hunt declared that in a nation with increasing division and conflict, a united Church is God’s answer to those problems.
Holding up a banner in the front that said, “One Lord. One Faith. One Church. One Race,” the group began to walk up United Avenue. Along the way, different pastors and leaders prayed in between praise songs sung by everyone. They prayed against racism, for unity, for the economic development of the community, for the safety and wisdom of all public servants – first responders, government officials, community leaders – and for God to move in his people like never before.
They walked approximately in unity, prayer and song towards Woodland Hills Baptist Church, where the congregation of believers united and served in communion together. They declared that it is God the Father and the blood of Jesus that makes us one and unified.
…it is God the Father and the blood of Jesus that makes us one and unified.
There were hugs and new relationships built in this diverse group, and all were encouraged in the continued effort to live redeemed and reconciled with our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter their race or culture or background, celebrating what God has done.
For more information about the OneRace Movement and their focus on reconciliation and revival in Atlanta, visit OneRaceMovement.com.