ALBANY — “It was awesome.”
That’s how New Seasons Church Pastor Marcus Glass described his congregation’s first service yesterday (April 8) in a temporary location since their unexpected move from Raleigh White Baptist Church earlier in the week.
Slightly more than 100 members attended the 11:30 a.m. service at the former location of Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Road. The new setting is about 7 miles from the Raleigh White site on Phillips Road.
Glass spoke on the topic of “Love Starts Here” and drew his sermon from John 13:35 and I John 4:7-9. He touched on themes such as love begins with God who teaches us by example how to love others, and then drew parallels to where the congregation finds itself.
“The first step is to extend forgiveness on our part … we can forgive without ever receiving an apology from Raleigh White. Our decision to love them is just like God’s decision to love us,” he added. “Love is not circumstantial or conditional. Love is not a strong emotion; it is a decision.”
The bivocational minister noted that New Seasons made the conscious decision to love the members of Raleigh White from their first encounter in June 2015. “No circumstance will ever be able to take that away,” he stressed.
The African American church plant shared worship and educational space for six months with the much smaller aging Anglo congregation before storm clouds began to gather. The relationship eventually deteriorated through what Mallary Baptist Association determined to be racial acrimony.
On April 3 the Association’s Executive Committee voted to disfellowship Raleigh White. The congregation, which became the first church in Southern Baptist history to be removed on the grounds of racism, has had no future communication with the Association or New Seasons. Calls from The Index to Raleigh White have not been returned.
Glass: “The Body of Christ will be strengthened through reconciliation”
“Our primary desire is for there to be reconciliation between our two congregations. Even if we never share the same facilities again, the Body of Christ will be strengthened through reconciliation,” he added.
He then added that by forgiving others “we do not become bitter, we become better.”
New Seasons continues to look for a permanent location in Albany, most likely to purchase. If that is the outcome, the congregation will begin a capital funds campaign to acquire the necessary assets.
The eventual location will be the fourth in the church’s 4 years since it was founded by Glass. Before accepting the offer from Raleigh White to move into their facilities and become their legacy church as the host church suggested, it was in the final states of completing a lease purchase of another building.
The decision to walk away from that deal was difficult for about 10 percent of the congregation – about a dozen members – who moved their membership elsewhere. Glass said the church plant, “by the grace of God,” was allowed to cancel the contract through the generosity of the owner.
“We had put a lot of money into that property when we moved into it in Nov. 2014. By the following June walked away when we were extended the offer from Raleigh White,” Glass explained.
Due to the church having been previously flooded by the Flint River, in those 7 months the congregation had replaced all the carpeting, painted extensively, and installed flat panel television screens in several locations.
The previous congregation had made a few upgrades but nothing that would compare to the time and resources which New Seasons had invested.
“We hold no ill will against anyone.”
The past few days has been an emotional time for the congregation, and was complicated somewhat by hate mail which Glass has received “but we hold no ill will against anyone.”
The soft-spoken pastor works three jobs in addition to pastoring the fast-growing congregation. He serves as a college professor at both Argosy University and Beulah Heights University in addition to serving as a firefighter.
He says his upbringing in Meridian, MS prepared him for the events he has encountered in Dougherty County. The experiences with racism have given him a strong perspective of how to deal with others who do not see African Americans as equals.
“I can now see clearly that the Lord has prepared me for this moment. People frequently ask me how I can be so calm and patient, but I just tell them that my experiences with racism have not caused me to be bitter. I have learned to love others through times like these,” he explained.
“If it were not for those childhood and young adult experiences I would have left Mallary Association a long time ago” but the fellowship of churches as well as the Georgia Baptist Mission Board has solidly stood behind New Seasons through nearly two years of mediation.
“My prayer is what we have gone through will start a movement to end segregation in all of our churches on Sunday morning. I want New Seasons to be known not as a black church or a white church but children of God who are worshipping together,” he added.
That movement already has its beginnings in the journal which Glass has been using to document the launch of the church and its early years. It will be published at a future date and used to build bridges of healing between the races.
Director of Missions Hans Wunch spoke briefly at Sunday’s service, extending the support of the Association’s 52 congregations. He was accompanied by Moderator “Butch” Knight, pastor of First Baptist Church of Albany; Vice Moderator Chad Ellis, pastor of Gillionville Baptist Church; and State Missionary Jimmy Baughcum who assisted in the lengthy mediation process.
Editor’s Note: Marcus Glass initially launched New Seasons Church as part of the church planting network of A.B. Vines of San Diego, CA. Initial church planting funds he received through that network and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board have now been exhausted and the church is slowly becoming self-supporting. It has baptized 163 individuals in the past two years.