The introduction to We Come Together by Working Together: The First Fifty Years of the North Carolina Council of Churches, by Sister Evelyn Mattern, SFCC (May 1985) states that the story of those first fifty years “is the story of persons, religious leaders struggling to respond in faith to the signs of their times. Sometimes the signs could be clearly read; at other times, they had to be discerned through a glass darkly. The records show that the leaders would prefer to be measured in terms of the full-heartedness of their responses, rather than the accuracy of their discernment, in terms of their deeds rather than their words.” The standards named in that statement continue to be valid today, 25 years later.
Introductory comments to a study by the Council’s Strategic Planning Committee, formed in 2008, provide additional thoughts:
Is this a time of seeing clearly or a time of looking through a glass darkly? The world and the state of North Carolina are different entities than they were nearly 75 years ago when the Council was created. Since our founding in 1935, the Council’s twin foci have been to encourage ecumenism (or Christian unity) and to work together on issues of justice, especially racial, gender, and economic justice. From efforts on behalf of farmworkers, to encouraging the protection of God’s earth, to exposing racism within the criminal justice system, the North Carolina Council of Churches is at the forefront of progressive social issues that go to the heart of whom God would have us to be. By drawing together members of 16 Christian denominations in this work, the Council also serves our other key focus, Christian unity.
In seeking to capture the essence of the past 25 years, this history brings the Council’s story up to the present as we celebrate 75 years of ecumenical service in the cause of justice and peace. Nothing has changed in the basic purposes of the Council. However, the manner in which these ministries have taken place shows a keen awareness of the changing times and the need to be current in the most effective ways to address the issues of the day in our witness to the people of this state.
The divisions of the history will be by the year, with reflections from former staff members inserted at times. A section of photos is also included, to remind us of the faces and the good works of those who have labored with and supported the North Carolina Council of Churches.
By Jean Rodenbough, D.Min.
Edited by the Rev. George Reed, Aleta Payne, Rose Gurkin