In Southern states during slavery days some African American churches separated members with a comb. In these churches, if someone wanted to become a member they were required to run a comb through their hair. If someone’s hair was fine they could run a comb through it and passed the litmus test. Then they were allowed membership. If their hair was too kinky to run a comb through, they were sent to the church down the street.
Some Southern churches also employed the brown bag rule. If someone’s skin was lighter than the brown bag, they were allowed membership. If their skin was darker than the brown bag they were barred. Such practices created ever more subtle divisions among an already divided people. This pernicious divisiveness is the hallmark of the infamous Jim Crow laws (1879-1950).
Divisions take place among people as a result of the most insignificant details. For instance, the Bosnian Muslims and Croats use the Roman alphabet and the Serbs use the Cyrillic alphabet. Otherwise the languages they speak are virtually identical. This insignificant cultural divide was a pretense behind Serbian violence and ethnic cleansing.
In a town I served as minister there were two Russian German churches. I asked why they worshiped apart. They were both Russian German churches after all. I was told one church had Germans who emigrated from Northern Russia and the other had Germans who emigrated from Southern Russia. Due to this regional variation, the German language they spoke was slightly different. So the two churches worshiped separately.
On any given day any two groups of people can exacerbate their differences and stereotype and demonize one another. Every day most married couples can find reasons to start divorce proceedings. It’s easy to pick a fight. It is harder to humbly ask forgiveness for our baggage (all people and all groups have theirs), swallow our pride, acknowledge our fault, find common interests, and seek reconciliation (2 Corinthians5:19).
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David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings. Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.
Enjoy Rich’s review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain.