A year ago this month, a Baptist church in Shelby held a ceremony after Sunday morning worship on its front lawn around a newly installed flagpole. During the event, the Christian flag was hoisted above the American flag.
There is a tradition that no flag should fly above the Stars and Stripes. It’s called “flag etiquette.” But there’s no law. Presumably, a church can take this action if it so desires.
A movement called “God Before Government” was launched on that day by Elizabeth Baptist Church and Rit Varriale, its senior pastor, who contended that the Christian flag movement is a “Bible-based” way to define patriotism.
The movement, however, has not caught fire across the state, although West Asheville Baptist Church and its pastor Stan Welch has picked up the cause.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
In recent years, Christians as well as Americans in general have had concerns about flags, in particular the Confederate flag.
Just last month, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis passed a historic resolution on the Confederate flag, urging “brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters.”
A pastor from Texas proposed the resolution in part to honor nine members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., who were killed a year ago. The man charged with that crime embraced the Confederate flag.
But that pesky flag keeps popping up in unexpected ways and places. Most recently, in stained glass windows at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Confederate flag images are included in two small panes in the set of windows honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
A decision has been made to remove and replace the images with plain glass, a process to be paid for by private donations, the cathedral says.
The set of windows honoring heroism will remain for now. Some cathedral officials believe they can stimulate discussion about race, the legacy of slavery and address “the uncomfortable and too often avoided issues of race in America.”
The cathedral, which opened in 1912, was first approached about a window honoring Lee in 1931. It later decided to honor Jackson as well and the panes in question were dedicated in 1953.
Hope Valley Baptist at 6900 Garrett Road in Durham, is spearheading a renovation project to convert a house previously used as church offices into a short-term home for refugees being resettled in the Triangle.
Demolition of the interior, the first part of the project, is now 95 percent complete, according to Mike Dossett, a church deacon and project volunteer.
Volunteers, both men and women, work on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with more than 35 folks from four area Baptist churches turning out. Churches include Mount Carmel in Durham, Yates Baptist in Raleigh, Cane Creek in Hillsborough and Hope Valley in Durham.
Outside work to include scraping, wood repair, caulking and painting will be the next part of the project.
The idea for this kind of ministry came from someone in the congregation who attended a meeting of World Relief Durham, the local agency the government has contracted to handle refugee re-settlement in the area.
Dossett said the Durham area is getting refugees from Burma, Congo, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Recently, he said, Raleigh has received the first Syrian refugees to come to this area.
Hope Valley Baptist signed on to the project as a ministry of Christian hospitality, Dossett said.
Monetary support, expected to total more than $40,000, has been raised through grants from a variety of sources, including the national and state Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, governmental grants and Impact NC, a student-organized grant-making board run through the Philanthropy as a Tool for Social Change course at UNC-Chapel Hill. Support also has come from local contractors who agreed to do their work at reduced rates.
The projected completion date is early September.
“The house to be called Hope House will accommodate eight people on a short-term basis,” Dossett said.
A veteran church musician has joined Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian, 314 Great Ridge Parkway, Chapel Hill, as the new pianist.
Rob Passow, a native of Pennsylvania, holds a Master of Music degree in church music from Shenandoah University Conservatory in Virginia. He has held several organist and choral director positions in the Washington, DC, area.
Before moving to the Triangle, he completed a 13-year tenure as Music Director at Church of the Pilgrims Presbyterian Church in Washington. His choral and organ compositions have been performed in churches and concert venues in United States, Canada and Europe.
In addition to conducting and playing piano and organ, he plays the cello and sings and has performed with numerous DC area choirs, including the Washington Singers and the Cathedral Choral Society.
The Holocaust Remembrance Essay Contest, held annually for area high school students and facilitated by North Carolina Hillel, recently announced this year’s winners.
Shir Bach, Cedar Ridge High School, first place; and Sarah Taekman, Chapel Hill High School, second place.
The winners received cash prizes of $250 and $125 respectively.
The contest seeks to inspire students to think about the implications of the Holocaust in their lives and throughout the world.