Natchez does have integrated churches

Published 2:12 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I would like to comment on an article that appeared in The Natchez Democrat on Jan. 23. It was an article signed by Ms. Sharon Marie Chester, regarding her logging on in an online interview she disliked.

I do not disagree with her disgust with the online interview, but I would like to address one sentence she wrote. She said; “Funny, I can’t seem to find an integrated church in the greater Natchez area no matter how hard I look.”

Ms. Chester, I contend that you need to look harder, because such churches certainly do exist.

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I am a member of St. Mary Basilica (Catholic) Church and we have black families who attend all the time. To be honest, since this is such a common event, I do not ever pay attention how many people of the black race are in attendance.

We are currently having a “Mission” (revival) service each night at our church and I did pay particular attention to this issue since your article appeared and you were finding it so difficult to find an integrated church in the greater Natchez area.

There were many black people in the congregation during the services. I also noticed that after the service each evening these same families came down stairs to the fellowship hall and mingled with the crowd there. Father David O’Connor goes out of his way to always make sure everyone is welcome to St. Mary’s.

Please try to make yourself available at Holy Family (Black) Catholic Church. You will find that there are many white families who also attend this church from time to time. I know many of the families there and love to go there myself and hear their wonderful choir. I have always felt welcome and never thought about what the numbers were in the mix of the races at this church. As a matter of fact, when our pastor Father O’Connor sometimes has to be out of town, the pastor from Holy Family will come to St. Mary’s and fill in for him. This seems to me like a pretty good example of church integration.

I have talked to Tameka Calhoun, whose father is pastor at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and she tells me that they have a mixed congregation and also have a choir that is both black and white.

Again, this seems to indicate to me that this is another example of an integrated church that you seemed to not to be able to find no matter how hard you looked.

Now, could one say that there is perfect race harmony in Natchez. Absolutely not! However, there have been great strides made, and it seems like a mixing of the races in our local churches is a pretty good place to start.

So, Ms. Chester, please be more diligent in your research before you make a statement that church integration does not exist in the greater Natchez area. It does exist.

Kirk Bartley

Natchez resident