Two Cedar Rapids, Iowa pastors decided to meet each other once a week to have prayer together. From this little spark, brought a fire of encouragement and love that neither pastor or even their congregations saw coming – until it blazed forth in full glory.
The Gospel Coalition (TGC) reports the two pastors, Rod Dooley from the African American Oak Hill Jackson Community Church, and Daniel Winn of the predominantly white Cedar Rapids Family Church – met to pray together. The pastors then decided to meet again until they were praying together weekly. Then they switched pulpits and followed this by doing an Easter service with both congregations.
Both churches were healthy and growing in numbers. Then in 2017, Dooley told Winn about his congregation’s search for a bigger building.
Then Winn made a suggestion. “You know, it wouldn’t be too large if we merged our churches together,” he recalled saying.
Both pastors later told each other they had been thinking about a church merger. What is even more amazing is that in a small, mostly white city, the members of both congregations voted 98 percent in favor of the merger. Now, 18 months later, the transition to the merged church of white and black members has gone relatively smoothly, according to TGC.
The new church, now named New City Church, because both congregations wanted to help renew the city, is growing. Both pastors share the leadership of the church and were able to even keep their staffs without having to let anyone go.
More than 100 new people have begun attending New City since January 2018 when the church formally opened.
“We’re seeing people’s lives being transformed,” Winn said. A few weeks ago, they baptized nine teenagers of different ethnicities. When the teens shared their testimonies, “there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
“People are interacting with people they never would have before,” Dooley said. “In the first few months, it wasn’t uncommon to have grown men from both churches coming up to us after the service with tears in their eyes, saying, ‘This is so great.'”
Two churches that both had one vision of renewing the city by helping people find a relationship with Jesus Christ are now working together as one. “We aren’t just doing this for diversity’s sake, but for the gospel’s sake and for Christ’s sake,” Winn told TGC.
The pastor hopes the church can be an example to the Cedar Rapids community, which has noticed how these remarkable Christians behave toward one another.
New City hopes their example will “unlock opportunities for us to speak into people’s lives, to minister, to encourage, and to love people,” elder Edwin Hung, who was born in Hong Kong, said. “God is definitely moving, and we want him to go before us.”