|Mary Rogan, left, and Delores Banks, members of the Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, celebrate the church's 25th anniversary. / Donyelle Davis//staff photographer|
Twenty-five years after shedding racial divisions to become one harmonious congregation, members of the Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene held a gala Saturday night to celebrate the milestone.
In 1988, St. Luke’s Church, a historically white Episcopal church founded by Col. Nathaniel Rochester, merged with St. Simon of Cyrene, a historically black Episcopal church, to form the new church.
The church, commonly called Two Saints, is hosting a series of events in January and February to mark the anniversary. The celebration’s theme is “Siyahamba,” which is Zulu for “We are marching.”
Madeline Gamble of Chili was a member of St. Simon of Cyrene before the integration, and said even though there were challenges and opposition in the beginning, the outcome was worth it.
“It worked out beautifully,” she said. “We came to be a diverse church family.”
Bruce Colburn, who joined St. Luke’s in 1980, said he appreciates how the cultural exchange between the groups has positively shaped how they worship together.
“It’s an example of what every church should be, if possible,” he said. “Every church should have that representation on a Sunday.”
The Rt. Rev. Prince Singh, Eighth Episcopal Bishop of Rochester, said he admires the dedication it took for the church members and leaders to recognize how contradictory segregating the churches was. .
“Integration doesn’t happen without a lot of commitment and a lot of love and a willingness to learn and unlearn,” he said.
Singh said Two Saints is proof that people are able to reconcile historical differences genuinely.
“We are still on a journey with race relations in this country, we are still on a journey with gender equality,” Singh said. “ But it is encouraging to know we are making progress.”