150 residents join at church event for evening of promoting harmony

December 07, 1993|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Residents of southern Anne Arundel found harmony last night somewhere between the soft melodies of Christmas carols and the vibrant rhythm of gospel songs.

About 150 area residents gathered for an evening of song and fellowship at the St. James' Episcopal Church in Lothian. Nine area churches lent their choirs for the occasion, which organizers hope would be the first of many events bringing black and white members of the community together.

With a Christmas tree twinkling in a corner of the social hall and nearly every chair occupied, last night's gathering seemed a far cry from October, when the peace of the rural region was disrupted by a Ku Klux Klan rally on a farm near the West River. That event, which caught many in the community by surprise, was the impetus for last night's gathering.

"We need to get together more and have this spirit in the community," said Hattie Foote of Galesville. "We shouldn't need the Ku Klux Klan to bring us together."

But the Klan recruitment rally did just that -- not only bringing people together for the ecumenical program last night, but also prompting an Oct. 23 gathering in which about 100 people demonstrated their opposition to the organization and racial hatred. The demonstrators that night carried candles and signs reading "Unite," "Value diversity" and "Ban racism."

Roger L. Kelly, grand dragon of the Maryland KKK, said that night: "I think they ought to go back to their own church and pray for their own sins of keeping homosexuals and race-mixers in the church."

Last night's program at St. James' Episcopal Church, billed as a "musical evening of friendship," was sponsored by the West River Federation, a coalition of area community groups, businesses and individuals.

"This is the time of year we do a lot of sharing, and I can't think of anything more appropriate than welcoming new neighbors and renewing old acquaintances," said Peggy Burroughs, a federation board member who was an organizer of the event.

The evening was reverent and subdued in the beginning but ended with people standing in the aisles clapping and shouting, "Alleluia!"

Children and the elderly joined in the singing. And although there were obvious differences in the choirs' musical styles, the audience seemed to appreciate all of the presentations.

"It was very spiritual and uplifting," said Joan Medley of Edgewater.

"I think it was absolutely wonderful," said Beverly Fuss, who sang in a choir from Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church. "We really have a feeling of community here."

After the music, the audience joined in more informal singing.

Participating along with St. James and Our Lady of Sorrows were the Galesville United Methodist Church, Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, Chews Memorial United Methodist Church, Christ Church, Franklin United Methodist Church, the House of Prayer and the International House of Prayer.

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