Second Baptist Church, one of the oldest African-American churches in Evanston, and Lake Street Church, a predominantly white church housed in the city’s oldest public building, have declared their collective commitment to eliminate racism in the city.
Their declaration of unity, “Striving for healing in a painfully-divided world,” states: “We resolve to begin and to sustain collective work and mutual cooperation in areas that are in need of transformation and change in our community. This includes, but is not limited to, public education, law enforcement, housing, employment and economic justice.”
They will celebrate becoming sister churches on Sunday, Sept. 30, with a joint worship services, staring at 9 a.m. at Second Baptist, 1717 Benson Ave., followed by a unity march through downtown Evanston, and a 10:30 a.m. service at Lake Street, 607 Lake St.
The Rev. Michael Nabors, pastor of Second Baptist Church, and president of the NAACP of Evanston, says, “Our world and nation are at odds, with races and groups growing further apart rather than closer together. It is critical for us to show that there is another way, for people of goodwill and kindred spirit to gather together in fellowship and harmony.”
The Rev. Robert Thompson will preach at the Second Baptist service. A long-time civil rights leader in Evanston and minister emeritus of Lake Street Church, Thompson was pivotal in launching the homeless shelter at Lake Street as an act of civil disobedience.
He founded the Center for Public Ministry, now Connections for the Homeless; and advocated for racial justice and LGBT rights. Thompson also served as chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. He founded Compassionate Atlanta, where he now resides, to foster compassionate action in the public realm.
Thompson led the 1991 Reconciliation between the two churches, during which the Lake Street congregation apologized to Second Baptist for the racism which, in 1882, led African-American members to leave Lake Street and form their own church, Second Baptist.
Thompson said, “We need to come together to confront racial inequity, an open wound that is desperately in need of healing. This wound can only be healed as white people confront our engrained white privilege, and then join hands with people of color. This Sister Church Declaration is an important step on this long journey.”
Nabors will preach at the service at Lake Street.