Church Swap: A Grassroots Approach to Dismantling the Most Segregated Hour in America

Posted: February 28, 2011 in Church Swap: A Grassroots Approach to Dismantling the Most Segregated Hour in America

Mia Moody, Faculty Researcher; Jo Welter, Community Race Relations Coalition; and
Ramona Curtis, “Church Swap” Project Director.

I am excited to work on a new, worthwhile project with long-time friend and colleague, Ramona Curtis, “Church Swap” Project Director. The project titled “Grassroots Approach to Dismantling the Most Segregated Hour in America,” will document what happens when participants of various races switch churches for three months with a person of another race.

Curtis’ goal is to dismantle what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “America’s most segregated hour” — the 11:00 hour on Sunday morning when people go to church.

“Our world is growing more and more diverse,” said Curtis, “I’ve never understood why we are so segregated during that 11:00 hour on Sunday morning.”

Participants will read Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson, and United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race

After three months, they will return to their home church where they will spend another two months writing about what they have learned. Using this information, project managers will produce a research paper, Web site, a video documentary, and a research paper detailing their experiences.

Curtis says going to a church that is predominantly white has helped her to see things differently. 

“I think they will gain a lot based on my experiences. I have grown tremendously because of my open-mindedness,” she said, “I am challenged to be able to be comfortable and see people as people and not the color of their skin.”

A $10,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Healing Initiative allowed Curtis and the Community Race Relations Coalition to challenge the segregation stronghold.  Jo Welter, owner of Persnickety Tim’s and member of the Community Race Relations Coalition, helped secure funding for the project.

The ultimate goal of the initiative is to encourage people to think more critically about racial divisions, and to look for ways to create partnerships and open a dialogue. If participating churches become multiracial as a result, that will be “icing on the cake.”

Curtis also hopes the project will yield a tool kit for other organizations.  For example, historically black universities may exchange students with predominantly white ones.

“This will definitely provide an interesting, educational exchange,” she said. “We will document our experiences and provide guidelines for other organizations.”

Curtis enlisted my help to document their journeys via video interviews, a personal blog and Facebook posts. The results should be very interesting. Stay tuned.
For more information, visit:

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