Churches find harmony working together, helping community

Published 8:53 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

The ecumenical spirit is alive and well among Washington churches.

So says the Rev. Charlie Mike Smith, who served as senior minister at the Washington United Methodist Church for nine years.

Ecumenism is “different denominations willing to work together to achieve Christian ends,” Smith said.

To that end, Smith is preaching for two weeks at the First Presbyterian Church in Washington. He believes that hearing from preachers of other denominations is a good thing for congregations.

“I think it’s a reminder of Jesus’ intention that we all be one,” Smith said.

Pastor Lee Kinney of FPC, whose shoes Smith is filling for two weeks, also sees positives in harmony among churches.

He said cooperation between churches has made the community “a jewel of grace and love.”

One way in which ecumenism improves the community is through joint projects, Kinney said. Such projects include: the food pantry, Eagle’s Wings; Beaufort County’s domestic violence shelter, Ruth’s House; Purpose of God Annex’s rehabilitation program for convicted felons, Project New Hope; and Open Door Community Center.

The Rev. Danny Allen, former senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Washington, served last summer as interim pastor of First Baptist Church after the death of the Rev. Dr. Jimmy Moore.

Different denominations have grown more tolerant of one another in Smith’s lifetime, he said. He believes that a pastor from one denomination becoming a preacher at another is a sign of that.

“That would have never happened earlier,” he said. “Generally, it has gotten much better. There’s not as much emphasis placed on what denomination is as there may have been in an earlier time.”

However, some differences still divide congregations, he said. Denominations disagree on hot-button issues like allowing gay persons to be priests and abortion.

Navigating diverse political views among congregations can also be a tricky task for preachers, he said.

“It’s almost, at times, a question of whether your church is more MSNBC or Fox News,” Smith said.

However, he said he is encouraged by progress churches have made towards unity.

“I’m hopeful. I think that the denominational differences have really lessened in my lifetime,” Smith said. “I see that as a hopeful sign rather than something to be unhappy about.”