Text: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
“You could say we are passing the torch,” said Eugene Coffing, chair of the Winbourne Avenue Baptist Church deacon board. Winbourne Avenue is a predominantly white middle class church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, founded in 1947. At one time the church had 1500 members. But on a recent Sunday, their service was attended by only fifteen mostly elderly people. Yet as those fifteen filed out after the benediction, they passed teenagers and families with young children, mostly African Americans, who were filing in. A few minutes later, 200 members of Healing Place church enthusiastically praised God during an energetic and emotional service.
Now you can probably guess what happened to Winbourne Avenue church. Their post-war white, middle class neighborhood transitioned, and “white flight” took most of its members to the suburbs or to other cities. Some churches in this situation hang on for dear life doing things the way they’ve always been done, and Winbourne Avenue did for a time. But in 2007 they began to allow Healing Place to use their large facilities for worship and to offer food, child care, clothing, re-entry programs for ex-offenders, and street outreach with after school programs for homeless and at-risk youth.