College View Church, a Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Lincoln, Nebraska, United States, recently turned 125 years old. As part of the celebration, the church, the largest in the Mid-America Union Conference church region, took what some leaders think is an authentic look at its history. It was a look that included an honest assessment of the way the congregation related to people of color in the past, congregation leaders said.
The September 7 celebration was the first of several planned activities, said worship pastor Deneil Clarke. “More activities will follow later in the year, but this opening event is especially important,” he said.
Church With a History
Clarke shared details about the history of the original wooden church structure dating from 1894 and said that many early Adventist pioneers passed through Lincoln and preached from the original pulpit on display in the lobby, including Adventist Church cofounder Ellen White.
Several stained-glass windows that had been installed in 1937 were saved when the wooden church was demolished, he said, and were kept in storage until they were reinstalled when the present church building was expanded in 2007.
Terry Bock, who served as College View Church administrative pastor for 33 years before retiring in 2018, made himself available to give tours of the building and the stained glass windows in the afternoon.
Following a slide presentation with photos of the various church buildings and construction through the years, several former pastors sent greetings by video as they encouraged the congregation to continue serving the Lincoln community.
A Time to Apologize
After the focus on the history of the iconic congregation, church head elder Linda Becker shared a true story she recently heard about the power of forgiveness. “It was a story that touched me deeply,” she said.
Becker went on to say, “In the past, College View Church did not treat people of color the way we should. They were asked to sit in the balcony or even turned away at the door,” Becker acknowledged. “They were not accepted as white people were.”
Attendees were invited to participate in a responsive reading prayer created for the day, confessing shortcomings, asking forgiveness, and committing themselves to worship and celebrate God’s goodness with all brothers and sisters, for all time.
“Today, we ask forgiveness from our friends of color for what previous generations did to you,” Becker said. “We are sorry we did not see you as God’s children just like us. We ask you and God to forgive us, and may God’s love flow to all people — regardless of color, status, or background — who enter this church in the future,” she said.