- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - They started out sharing the gymnasium bleachers watching their sons play basketball at Snider High School.

Then the Rev. Jim Halstead and Bishop Reginald Blackmon started sharing time and prayer with each other. As a result of the friendship that developed, beginning Jan. 4 their two congregations will share the same building.

Halstead and his Community Christian Reformed Church will worship at 10:30 a.m. Sundays at their building, 3434 Lahmeyer Road. Blackmon and his multicultural Latter Rain Ministries congregation will worship in the same sanctuary from 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays and 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays.

“In the midst of all the racial conflict going on, … we think it is a real good thing - a positive example of a racial relationship,” Blackmon said, referring to recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere.

Blackmon and Halstead hope to represent “the bigger picture,” where people of different races live together in fellowship, and they love and respect each other as children of God, they told The News-Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1ARDbBg ).

The clergymen said they got to know each other during the 2010-2011 basketball season at Snider. Halstead’s son, Stephen, was a freshman playing on the varsity squad. Blackmon’s older son, Reggie, was a junior, in his second year at Snider after his family moved in June 2009 to Fort Wayne from San Diego.

The boys became good friends, and soon their fathers did, too. During the men’s conversations, they learned they both were clergy and both had interests in starting new churches, missions work and working with people in and coming out of the criminal justice system.

The two pastors brought their congregations together for worship and prayer meetings, and the congregations still meet together for prayer meetings on the first Wednesday of the month. The congregations also have worked together on outreach projects, such as passing out groceries to residents living near the building Latter Rain has been renting for the past 18 months at Holton Avenue and Baxter Street.

Halstead credits Blackmon with inspiring him and his congregation to get involved in evangelism, including creating a missions outreach partnership with a struggling congregation in El Pontrero, Honduras.

Last August, Blackmon also prophesied at a ministry conference hosted by his church that Halstead would help train evangelists. A few days later, Halstead felt inspired to write an entire training program, “Go and Tell,” to help churches prepare members to go out and share Christianity with people. Program materials and videos are available for free download on Community Christian’s website, www.fortwaynecrc.com.

The cooperation between the pastors and congregations moved to a new level recently when Blackmon mentioned the heating system had gone out again at his church’s building. The heat was out most of last winter, and he saw attendance at services drop from about 70 people to 12, who finally ended up meeting in people’s homes.

Sunday worship attendance now averages about 21 people at Latter Rain and 85-100 people at Community Christian, the pastors said.

Blackmon’s church prayed for an answer. Halstead brought the news to his church board, and the board and congregation later voted unanimously to invite Blackmon and his congregation to worship there during 2015 while they raise money for their own building.

The two congregations also are talking about collaborating on outreach ministry to people living around the church building, which is located in Fort Wayne’s Georgetown area.

“This is more the heart and spirit of America,” Blackmon said. “This is the spirit and the kingdom God.”

They believe racial healing can come to America through its children and through prayer.

Churches must teach children to treat other people well because God is watching and because each person is a child of God, Blackmon said.

Praying for other people not only helps the individuals being prayed for, Halstead said. It also creates change in the person praying and encourages a loving attitude toward others.


Information from: The News-Sentinel, https://www.news-sentinel.com/ns

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