One America - Building an Intercultural Congregation

Program: Building an Intercultural Congregation, Louisville, KY
Contact(s): Charles W. Brockwell, Jr., Pastor: (502) 426-8898
Purpose: To serve as an agent of racial reconciliation by being an intercultural, international and diverse church

Background Program Operations Outcomes


The Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, established in 1888, was once the largest membership congregation of its denomination in Kentucky (2,315 members in 1950). But in the late 1980s, it seemed fated for closure. By 1997, the membership had risen to 320. The turnaround began in 1991 with the appointment of an African American pastor, followed in 1997 by a white pastor with experience serving in urban African American churches. Today, 25% of the church's membership is comprised of various racial and ethnic groups, including African American, Haitian, Native American, Liberian and Nigerian. The church's program, Building an Intercultural Congregation, aims at creating a multiethnic congregation intent on committing itself to an urban mission and ministry.

Program Operations

The programs of the church, carried out by lay volunteers and part-time staff, cover a number of areas. The most important aspect of the church's efforts to reach out to different ethnic groups is the church's culturally blended worship, which emphasizes both God's grace and justice in a multicultural world. The church recently purchased a hymnal, Songs of Zion, that contains predominantly African American songs and prayers. In this way and others, the church hopes to blend religious teaching and racial and cultural sensitivity among its congregation. Other programs provided by the church include lunches for homeless persons, made available Monday through Friday, and a monthly social hour for persons with HIV/AIDS and related conditions. Other programs include: mid-week sessions for children and youth during the school year; summer activities for children and youth; visitation in the homes of the children and youth; hosting support groups for AlAnon and parents with learning disabled children groups; housing four ecumenical social action nonprofit organizations; and sponsoring refugee families.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

The Fourth Avenue church has been received positively by the community, with over 120 people attending worship, 150 receiving free lunches, and four families taking advantage of the church's refugee sponsorship. The church is distinctive in being an economically viable congregation that models racial inclusiveness. The worshiping congregation is about 70-75% white. In 1997-1998, church membership increased by about seven percent and worship attendance by approximately 10%.

Promising Practices - North East

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