​Neighbor churches, split on race lines, work to heal divide

By RACHEL ZOLL, AP News |  August 29, 2016

MACON, GA. (AP) — There are two First Baptist Churches in Macon — one black and one white. They sit almost back-to-back, separated by a small park, in a hilltop historic district overlooking downtown.

"We're literally around the corner from each other," said the Rev. Scott Dickison, pastor of the white church.

About 170 years ago, they were one congregation, albeit a church of masters and slaves. Then the fight over abolition and slavery started tearing badly at religious groups and moving the country toward Civil War. The Macon church, like many others at the time, decided it was time to separate by race...

Ever since — through Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, desegregation and beyond — the division endured, becoming so deeply rooted it hardly drew notice. Jarred Moore, whose family has belonged to the black church for three generations, said he didn't know the details of the history until recently.

"I thought, 'First Baptist, First Baptist?' There are two First Baptists right down the street from each other and I always wondered about it, " said Moore, a public school teacher.

Then, two years ago, Dickison and the pastor of the black church, the Rev. James Goolsby, met over lunch and an idea took shape: They'd try to find a way the congregations, neighbors for so long, could become friends. They'd try to bridge the stubborn divide of race...Read more