Hues in the pews

Racially mixed churches an elusive goal

When Rodney Woo became pastor of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston in 1992, the all-white congregation averaged 200 worshipers. Faced with a declining membership, and situated in a neigborhood that was changing its racial composition, the congregation set out to invite people of color to church.

That is a survival strategy that frequently fails. But Woo now looks out at nearly 400 people of various hues in the pews. A third are Hispanics, some are African Americans, and some are immigrants from more than a dozen countries.

“We have people coming in from long distances to be part of this experiment,” said Woo, who holds a doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Visitors who have alternated between Wilcrest Baptist and their regular church tell him, “I can’t believe my church is so white when I go back home.”

 

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