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Seeking unity amid disparity: KC faith leaders initiate ‘Hope Lives’

a white woman and black man hold hands Participants hold hands at a prayer vigil for Michael Brown outside the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Pastor Alan Shelby has lived in the Kansas City area his entire life, and he says the KC he has experienced is different from other cities.

“Kansas City is kind of a unique community,” he said. “If you go to another large city like Dallas, you have a rich part, you have a poor part. Kansas City … is more of a patchwork, kind of a checkerboard of communities.”

Shelby, the senior pastor at Harvest Baptist Church in Blue Springs, Missouri, along with a group of ministers from other Christian churches from across the metro, have initiated a plan to unite the patches of KC’s quilt. Their new initiative, Hope Lives, officially launches tomorrow with a prayer vigil at Liberty Memorial.

One of Shelby’s co-pastors, Dave Hill, said recent racial tensions across the nation have caused local clergy to look inward: How can the church communities of KC work together to improve race relations?

“We’re all separate on Sunday mornings in our individual, cultural environments,” he said. “We haven’t been together in that sense, so the goal is to work together to be ‘one in Christ.’”

Hill explained that the service will include short speeches by various clergy and KCMO Police Chief Darryl Forté. Participating churches include Church of Faith International and Christian Charity Church, both from Kansas City, Missouri, and Abundant Life from Lee’s Summit, Missouri. The focal point, however, will be a circle of Kansas Citians of all races linking arms and flying flags on the north lawn of the Liberty Memorial.

“It’s not a photo opp, it’s not just a one-time thing, but it is a picture of what the church looks like on the (figurative) inside,” Hill said. “We are going to be more intentional to make our churches look like that (on the inside) so we can be part of helping find solutions for the problems that are occurring.”

“It’s not a photo opp, it’s not just a one-time thing, but it is a picture of what the church looks like on the (figurative) inside,” Pastor Dave Hill said.

Saturday’s multicultural and multi-denominational service is the first step in accomplishing this goal. Plans are still in development for the full Hope Lives program, which may include community service, cooperative church events and educational events.

The leaders of Hope Lives said that, while legislative change may be necessary for a peaceful America, spiritual community is what will allow real reconciliation.

This line of thinking echoes a teaching of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “You can’t legislate morality. You’ve got to change the heart.” Shelby referred to this quote as a way to explain the importance of communities uniting to spread a message of forgiveness and hope.

Reconciliation is necessary, he said.

“I think it’s so important because whenever I see communities (like Ferguson, Missouri,) that burn up their own stuff, it’s their frustration and their statement of hopelessness,” he said. “They feel like there’s hopelessness in the justice system, in economic systems.

“We’re trying to provide that spiritual component, that spiritual part to give the statement of hope,” he said.

The Hope Lives prayer vigil is Saturday, Jan. 17, at 10 a.m. on the north lawn of Liberty Memorial.

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