Home is a place, but it is also a feeling of connection, authenticity, and togetherness.
Carmen Jones kept hearing North Metro’s friendly greeting, “Welcome home” but the church still wasn’t feeling like home to her. She appreciated pastor Rob’s heart for racial reconciliation, and she was praying for connections but had begun talking to her husband about leaving the church. Then Rob introduced Carmen to his wife, Denise, who invited her to a brunch that would alter her plans.
Denise had just written a book of historical fiction threaded with themes of racial division, called The INVISIBLE Line. She’d been praying for God to bring together a diverse group of women from the church to read it, offer feedback, and discuss the book’s topics of race. She also hoped to use their collective wisdom to write a corresponding study.
Denise gathered a group of women for brunch to introduce her book and share her prayer that God would use it to help bring racial reconciliation to the church. Carmen had a seat at that table. Cynthia Hayes pulled up a chair as well.
Cynthia had worked on a plan for unity in diversity with her former church in Connecticut. When she moved to Georgia and started attending North Metro, she connected with Rob and Denise about how to use her experience to help honor diversity at North Metro.
Carmen and Cynthia both bravely said yes to an invitation to brunch. There, they found their place among a diverse group of women whom they’d never met, all who were committing to dig into the complex and personal conversation of racial reconciliation.
A deep friendship forged as they met weekly for heavy, yet meaningful, discussion, as well as prayer, good food, and laughter. They became the “Saturday Sisters." When the 12 weeks they’d agreed upon were over, they were having such rich conversations that they, “Couldn’t let each other go."
Carmen and Cynthia now call themselves “connected at the hip.”
Cynthia described their meetings as a “Sacred space where we could share and ask questions without being judged. We received authentic answers because we were asking in love, out of compassionate curiosity. We were able to hear things we’d never heard, from people who didn’t look like us.”
Carmen was grateful that her new friends felt free to acknowledge, and challenge, racism in their upbringing. The freedom to say, “This is how I was taught, how my parents raised me. These are things I heard from my family.”
The Lord used this vulnerability to foster empathy and understanding. They worked through tension rather than running from it. In each other, they discovered a “brave space” where they could “put a mirror in front of their faces” to dig into their own biases.
For Carmen, because racial reconciliation efforts often encourage oneness, it was a “breath of fresh air” to feel free to show up authentically. The goal was, “Not to wipe away uniqueness. Whatever culture we came from didn’t have to be left at the door. We embraced and enjoyed each other’s uniqueness. We found the fun in celebrating each other’s differences. It was OK to be different.”
In His kindness, God had answered each of their prayers for racial authenticity, diverse friendships, and to be utilized for racial reconciliation.
Out of the overflow of wisdom from the group, Denise then prayerfully wrote a biblical, companion The INVISIBLE Line study. This small group study opportunity was then offered to the whole church. Led by Denise, Cynthia, Carmen, and other “Saturday Sisters," 45 men and women met to study racial lines that divide us.
Just like the Saturday Sisters, participants felt led to the work of racial reconciliation. They, too, struggled through some conversations and laughed their way through others. As a result, they began to see each other as God sees them.
Now, this fall, Carmen and Cynthia will be co-leading another opportunity for more North Metro family members, called Be the Bridge. They’ll be seeking people of all backgrounds who share that compassionate curiosity.
Cynthia believes, “The church has the opportunity to thrive in this and set the example for the world. Because of Jesus, we have every resource that we need to do this right.”
North Metro finally feels like home for Carmen, and Cynthia’s desire to honor diversity within the church is being realized. These two friends, uniquely made by God for His glory and purposes, are now sharing the gift they’ve been given by welcoming more of us to the table.