The upcoming presidential election has initiated quite a bit of discussion in the media on the subject of race.

Having grown up in and served as pastor of predominantly African-American congregations, I was compelled several years ago to move Bethlehem Baptist Church, where I have pastored for over 22 years, to a multicultural congregation.

The concept itself was not new nor was it particularly extreme, but for some reason, it took a while for the vision to blossom. Now please do not misunderstand me. Anyone of a different ethnicity or religion who entered through our doors was always welcomed, but our worship focused on the African-American culture.

I was not then, nor am I now, suggesting that we lose sight of our rich and powerful heritage, but the Word of God tells us that we are all one. In 1st Corinthians 11:13, we find these words:

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

I believe in my heart that we have to change the fact that Sunday morning at 11 a.m. is still the most segregated hour in our country.

There is so much to be gained in our walk with God when we learn to appreciate the gifts that God has given to all of His people across racial lines, gender lines, and economic lines. We, the church, should be the trendsetters in uniting people - not the government and not corporate America.

Our responsibility to love God and to serve His people goes far beyond our social, economic or political differences, and it goes far beyond race. We cannot afford to stand still. We have to think outside the box and find new ways of reaching all cultures and ethnicities so that the church represents all of God's people. It may mean that we have to change the way we do a few things, but if that brings us closer together, then why not give it a chance.

I must admit that as I look into the congregation, it is refreshing to see a mixture of all of God's people. It may not be a lot of different faces but it is a beginning.

Each Sunday, I am able to catch a glimpse of what heaven must truly be like - black and white, rich and poor, young and old, male and female, city and suburbs. Each Sunday, I see not only hope for my children and grandchildren, but I see promise for future generations. *

The Rev. Quann is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Penllyn Pike and Dager Road.