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Denominations Unite: Ocean View church celebrates differences of two congregations under one roof

Two churches -- one predominantly Black church and the other predominantly white -- came together in the midst of racial tensions in the country.

NORFOLK, Va. — Our country is at a crossroads battling COVID stressors and racial tensions, even hitting our communities in Hampton Roads. But a small church in Ocean View is proving a little love and acceptance goes a long way.

“We were a people in need of a building, and they were a building in need of some people,” said Christ Believers Fellowship Church Pastor Jeffrey Davidson.

Every Sunday music is made under one roof, by two congregations.

“You can be Christian, and you can be Baptist even and have a good time,” said Lighthouse Community Church Pastor Charlie Stover. “So, we do enjoy each other.”

For over 20 years, Pastor Charlie Stover has led Lighthouse Community Church, a predominantly white group. Five years ago, Pastor Jeffrey Davidson came along with Christ Believer’s Fellowship Church, which is predominantly Black. Now, they share the pulpit.

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Pastor Charlie Stover (far left) leads a predominantly white church. Pastor Jeffrey Davidson (far right) leads a predominantly Black church. The pastors brought both their congregations together in the midst of racial strife in the U.S.

“We have combined services at 11 o’clock,” Pastor Davidson said. “I preach on some Sundays; Pastor Charlie preaches on some Sundays.”

As tensions rise across the nation, the groups embrace color.

"Not recognize the differences, but recognize why we are alike,” Pastor Stover said.

The two congregations pray together under a common creed, with a little humor and different styles.

“He is exciting, and I am not that exciting,” Pastor Stover said. “I am more calm, and he is more animated. They like both of us.”

It’s a partnership Dr. Patricia Turner got to see firsthand.

“It doesn’t matter if you are purple, blue, green, red, or yellow," Dr. Turner said.

She is part of the Norfolk 17, a group of Black students that broke the color barrier in Norfolk Public Schools.

"I taught for over 20 years,” Dr. Turner said. “My classroom was made up of all different people. They looked like a beautiful rainbow to me. This church is coming full circle for me.”

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Their worship also shines through outreach. Three months ago, they helped 30 people displaced by an apartment fire across the street.

“Took in a lot of donations and was letting people come over here and eat,” said Lighthouse Parishioner David Peters.

Division isn’t a problem for the congregations, but COVID-19 still is.

“We had nothing left but each other. If that didn’t show anybody else, it showed me,” said Christ Believers Minister of Music Mary Lee.

They are down to 100 members and even more are skipping Sunday service.

“I don’t know what is going to happen, especially with COVID, a lot of people don’t come to church now,” Pastor Stover said. “So now it is really bad.”

Both pastors hope their faith can find fellowship.

“There comes my optimism if it is God's, he is going to keep it going,” Pastor Davidson said. “That is what we are praying for.

"That is what we are praying for,” Dr. Stover said.

In the meantime, the door is wide open and every color of the rainbow is welcome inside.

Lighthouse Community Church has been around since 1941, Christ Believer’s joined them in 2017.