THE REV. CHARLES Quann, of Lower Gwynedd's Bethlehem Baptist Church, found himself raising his voice during a meeting a decade ago about a lack of diversity in institutions like government. Then he paused.
"I said, 'How can I be here speaking like this when I'll go back to Bethlehem and we have no diversity initiative?' " he recalled recently.
Integrating his church and creating a welcoming, multicultural worship place has been a priority ever since. "If we can't do it in church, I don't know where we'll find the healing we need in this world," he said.
Bethlehem Baptist is changing, but slowly. The 1,700-member congregation was once almost completely African-American. Now, Quann said, the church has about 200 white members as well as a growing number of Hispanic and Asian families. Church leadership reflects the growing diversity.
To celebrate Easter, Quann has asked congregants to invite someone "who doesn't look like them" to services.
"We want to make sure all people are welcome. We talk about the power of one, 'Each one, win one,' " he said.
"Some people want to hold on to the black church. It was a place for us to gather when no one would accept us. But things have changed now," he said. "I don't want to live side-by-side, day-to-day with people who have the same core values and who experience the same blessings and then come to church and be in the past."
Who we are: Bethlehem Baptist Church, a "Christ-centered, multicultural church," Quann said. The church motto is: "Love God, Serve People."
Where we worship: 712 Penllyn Pike, Spring House, Pa., in Lower Gwynedd Township. Although the congregation is 126 years old, it has only called its current location home for the past nine years. The building used to house a synagogue.
When we worship: There are two Sunday services. The first starts at 9 a.m. and usually ends about 10:30. Quann said it's the "stronger and more energetic" of the two.
The second begins about 11:15 a.m. - sometimes a bit later - and ends no later than 1:15 p.m.
Unlike some Baptist churches, Quann said, "nobody's staying here all day long. Other than me."
How we worship: Quann describes the services as "traditional Afro-centric worship, more spirited in terms of call and response and amens."
"We've had some people join us and they took some time to adjust to the style of worship," he said. "But the house of God is open to all people."
Dial-a-prayer: Can't get to church? Every day from 6:15 to 7 a.m., Quann leads prayer via conference call. The dial-in number and access code are available on the church's website: bbc4christ.org. (Don't forget to push "6" to mute your end of the conversation.)
Tune-in-a-prayer: You can see Quann and hear one of his sermons every Wednesday at 8 a.m. on Ion's "Visions of Victory" show. Or listen Saturdays at 2 p.m. when the 30-minute show airs on WNAP (1110-AM).
Good works: Many and varied. Among them: The church has adopted an orphanage in Kenya, provides up to a month of housing for families in transition and hosts a food pantry.
Big social issue we're grappling with: Unity. "Regardless of a person's faith or color, we have to be able to walk together," Quann said. "We don't judge people based on anything but their character and conduct."
Years ago, he invited a rabbi he knew to address his congregation, which puzzled some, he said. The rabbi is now a popular, eagerly awaited guest speaker.
Quann recently went to a mosque for the first time. "What I saw was men praying with their sons," he said. "I could relate to that."
Big social issue we've grappled with already: Equality. When Quann took the helm at the church 1986, he noticed there were no women in church leadership positions. They now work in every level of ministry, starting with Bethlehem's executive minister, the Rev. Tamieka N. Gerow.
Words of hope: People come to a church with all sorts of spiritual needs, Quann said.
He asks himself, "How can we, as a church, help this person? Do they need counseling? Financial aid? A pep talk?"
Regardless, to help and encourage them, "We tell them God is there."