Through acts of service and prayer rallies, Mount Canaan Baptist is sharing the gospel and promoting racial harmony in ‘Scenic City’
By David Dawson
CHATTANOOGA — Ternae Jordan, like so many pastors in the nation, has been given the difficult task of helping his congregation, and his community, navigate through the emotionally draining developments that have emerged over the past six months.
Racial unrest, deadly storms and a worldwide pandemic have combined to create a seemingly grim set of circumstances, and have caused many people, including some Christ-followers, to slip into a state of depression.
And yet, Jordan, lead pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church, Chattanooga, doesn’t look at this challenging stretch as being a time when evil and illness have prevailed. Just the opposite, in fact.
“I can see God’s hands all over this season,” said Jordan.
Fueled by prayer and positivity, Jordan and his staff at Mount Canaan have greatly impacted the Chattanooga area during these seemingly troubling times. They have demonstrated God’s love by organizing prayer rallies that promoted racial harmony, and also through acts of service that have included distributing food to those who were affected by the pandemic and providing COVID testing for community members.
Each of these events has helped the church create new connections and strengthen existing relationships in the Chattanooga area and beyond.
“Our ministries have stepped up tremendously,” said Jordan, who serves as black church specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. “(We have been) feeding families within the community and have provided COVID testing for over 8,000 individuals.”
In response to the pandemic, Mount Canaan enhanced its focus on its online ministries, and has seen great results from those efforts.
“This has been an awesome time of virtual fellowship,” Jordan said.
Perhaps most notably, Jordan and his staff have organized two outdoor prayer rallies. Both events drew large crowds, comprised of various races and backgrounds, for a time of prayer and worship. Social distancing and other COVID precautions were implemented at both events.
The first rally was held in the parking lot at Mount Canaan Baptist Church on June 5, just days after the death of George Floyd. The Chattanooga area, like many places in the country, was experiencing thick racial tension at the time.
“On June 5, in the middle of the protests, our church — along with 50 other pastors, ministers and churches — came together for a citywide prayer for racial justice and reconciliation,” said Jordan.
An estimated crowd of more than 1,500 attended the rally, and the event was featured on numerous news outlets in Chattanooga.
Four months later, Mount Canaan organized a second prayer rally. The event, held on the night of Oct. 2 at the Camp Jordan Complex in Chattanooga, drew an even larger crowd than the first, with an estimated 2,000 attendees.
The event included praise music from a team of local worship leaders and musicians.
“It was a powerful night for all races, creeds and believers to worship together,” said Jordan, noting that the crowd united for an evening of “worship under the stars.”
In addition to prayer booths, the event also featured ministry booths, where attendees could register for service projects that were designed to promote unity in the city.
Jordan believes the prayer rallies, and other such events, indicate that the overall state of race relations throughout the country is moving in the right direction.
However, Jordan said there is still much work to be done, including inside the churches.
“On the area of race in our country, I do not believe that things are getting worse,” he said, “but I do believe our present political climate allows people the freedom to say and do things that have laid dormant in their hearts. Unfortunately, some of the unresolved issues in our churches have been exposed because of this climate.”
Jordan said it is of the utmost importance that churches lead the charge in the quest for racial unity. Simply following the example set forth by Christ is the best way to do this, he said.
“The church should be at the forefront of leading the discussion on racism and equality, with equal justice for all,” Jordan said. “Our message should be that we are all one blood born in the same family, united in Christ. We should be leading the discussion showing love and compassion to all mankind. This is why we have worked extremely hard with churches from other races to be a reflection of what the body of Christ should be.”
In order for this to happen, he said, churches need to ensure that they are focused on three main elements.
“First, we need to repent before God,” he said. “Second, we need to preach and teach the truth about Scripture when it comes to race,” he added. “We are all born from one set of parents, Adam and Eve, which makes us a part of the same family. Even after the flood, God replenished the earth with one family. Therefore, we are all one blood.”
And lastly, he said, members of the body of Christ need to be open to one another.
“We must learn to listen to others’ stories and their reality,” he said. “We must listen with a compassionate ear and not with a superior mindset.” B&R