Unabashed love filled Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort and poured out onto Craven Street and beyond on Sunday afternoon.
The church was celebrating its 153rd anniversary with a little help from neighboring churches: Baptist Church of Beaufort, First Presbyterian Church and Grace Chapel AME. The service was called “By Our Love,” celebrating unity, brotherhood and love in Beaufort.
These four church bodies gathered together to focus on love. Loving God and loving each other. Loving friends and loving strangers. Loving unconditionally.
In spite of the hate and violence that is seemingly plaguing the world ever more frequently lately, the Rev. Kenneth Hodges said Tabernacle Baptist was looking for a special way to celebrate its anniversary this year. The church leaders chose to use it as an opportunity to show an example of love to the world without race or denomination creating boundaries.
“We are all one in the body of Christ,” Hodges said. He spoke about how Beaufort should be proactive in love, rather than reacting to the hate and pain of the world, in order to set the stage for positive change and be a leader in love.
Pastors from each of the four churches gave short messages, each delving into love from a different angle. The Rev. Jeannine Smalls of Grace Chapel AME shared a message of action. She said love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice people have to make every day. If you love God, show it by loving him and loving others, she said.
The Rev. Jeff Pethel of Baptist Church of Beaufort reminded the congregation of the Bible story of Ruth, who was devoted to her mother-in-law Naomi and stayed by her side after a great deal of turmoil. He asked the people gathered there, “What would the community look like, what would the world look like if we shared Ruth’s love with each other?”
The Rev. Patrick Perryman of First Presbyterian Church spoke about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. He said there is no love without discomfort or risk. Love often demands that people make sacrifices, he told them.
Hodges gave the final message, urging Christians of Beaufort to love without bounds in the face of violence. “Love is the only power so great that can overcome hate,” he said.
“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. ... Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” voices sang out with conviction at the close of the service.