Across Racial Lines: Minister, church work on rebuilding efforts

The Rev. Carolyn Webster of Kynette United Methodist Church is in the process of rebuilding a church that lost its original building in 2005 to a destructive infestation of termites. But her goals are much more than just the replacement of a building.

“When they lost their building, a lot of the programs that were in place here were also lost,” Webster said. “It’s not just a worship center we are rebuilding; it’s a congregation we are rebuilding.”

Carolyn Webster

Carolyn Webster

As Webster talks about the needs of her church, the fact that she is a white pastor with an all-black congregation – although unusual in the South – quickly becomes inconsequential.

“We want everyone in the community to know they can come here,” she said, “no matter what race they are, no matter what their status in life is.” She said the church has outreach events and programs such as a community cookout to let the community know they are welcome to come to Kynette.

Webster went on to explain that her congregation is partnering with the all-white congregation of Mallalieu United Methodist Church.

“We are building a relationship with Mallalieu,” she explained. “Our churches are working together across racial lines.” She said they work on community outreach together.

“We collect food to go to Outreach Ministries,” she said. “They have a very good food pantry, so we think we should utilize what’s already in place in the community. I think we should support that one instead of trying to build our own.

“We are also planning to have Vacation Bible School this summer, and we’ll probably team up with First United Methodist Church, too.” She said First United has been a blessing to her congregation over the years.

“Like the community cookout would not have happened without them,” she said. “We did the knocking, they did the cooking.”

The sanctuary of Kynette UMC is still under construction. Through different fundraisers and private grants, the church has the funds now to finish it. She said the goal is to have it ready by Sept. 28.

“The bishop is coming to celebrate our new building on Sept. 28,” she said. “So, we have to get it done by then.” She said a lot of the work that has been done is already paid for.

She explained that they would not be installing the traditional pews, but would instead have folding chairs.

“We’re a small church,” she said, “but, we have a variety of events, celebrations, funerals, weddings and other things, so we need to have a multi-purpose worship center where we can change the room as we need it.”

In July Webster will have been with Kynette for a year. But, this isn’t her first church to serve as pastor. She was ordained in 1997. But, she said she had avoided the calling for years.

“When I was growing up, I had it in my head, and it was sort of that way back then, that there were three different ways I could serve God. One, was through music ministry – if you heard me sing, you’d know that wasn’t going to happen. You could go into missions, but that meant leaving home, leaving the country, and I sure didn’t want to do that, or you could preach, and girls didn’t do that.

“But God did not allow me to get away with telling myself that forever,” she said. “So finally one day I said, OK, God!”

Webster said she had served the church in many capacities before becoming a minister, “but, this role is the one I love the most. It’s the one where I feel my purpose.”