With this declaration, the Rev. Sterling Morse reached the climax of a rousing sermon at the opening plenary of the Racial Ethnic and Immigrants Convocation at Big Tent. His preaching prompted a noisy standing ovation from more than 200 people of many cultures nearly filling a hotel conference room.
Morse, coordinator for cross-cultural ministries and congregational support for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), began his message by quoting from Psalm 133: “How good and pleasant it is when the people of God live together in unity.”
“These words ought to be the Shema, the declaration of faith that hangs over the door of every church in Christendom,” he said.
Quoting from a 1968 book by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Morse said, “We have created a great house—a World House—in which we must learn to live together in peace.”
In the church, this means people of different races, cultures and ethnicities will have to learn to live and work and worship together, he said. But “any effort to bring cultures together that are used to being apart is going to meet great resistance.”
Morse recalled a statement he heard over and over again in black churches during the Civil Rights movement: “The Lord will make a way somehow.” At a time when justice for the nation’s black citizens seemed impossible to achieve, “they believed God would make a way some way, somehow,” Morse said.
Similarly today, he declared, “becoming cross-cultural in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a somehow. It requires challenging some long-held beliefs about who we are and what we should be about.”
To a swelling chorus of “Amens,” Morse laid out his vision for the church: “In the World House we are one family and our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers … The World House is a place where the broken are healed …
“It’s the Pentecostal silo from which angels of light are launched into the dark places.”
Eva Stimson is editor of Presbyterians Today magazine. She is covering the Racial Ethnic and Immigrants Convocation at Big Tent for PNS.