Moving Forward: Durham pastor says unity, continuing conversations key to racial justice

Moving Forward

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – If there’s one thing life guarantees, it’s change. There’s been a lot of it lately. People all over the world are fighting for what they beleive is right.

Dr. Benji Kelley leads a multi-ethnic congregation as the pastor of the New Hope Church in Durham.

“Our African American brothers and sisters have been hurting. The George Floyd incident really rocked us, and I spent three weeks teaching on that after that incident. We are a multi-ethnic church; very, very diverse,” Kelley said. “So, I think it depends on who you talk to.”

Members of the church said they need help understanding the racial issues.

“White supremacy has been a big issue that you hear a lot of folks asking about, particularly white folks,” Kelley said. “African Americans, they’re coming up with different needs. They want to know that you’re with them. Many of them are scared. Many of them want to know how to have the conversations with their kids about if you get pulled over by a police officer.”

Kelley said the key to moving forward will be unity.

“It’s one thing for us to come to church together on Sunday, but we will know we’re really getting there when we start meeting for dinners at our homes and we have multi-ethnic dinners, or dinner parties, or we go out after church, or we’re in life groups together,” he said.

But what does the community need to move forward?

“Something happened with the George Floyd murder,” Kelley said. “I think we have to keep the conversations going. I think we experienced a tipping point and I am seeing tons of young people getting vocal about these issues. And I’m seeing tons of white folks particularly, but all ethnic groups and all ages getting out and peacefully protesting or wanting to engage and say, ‘enough is enough.’

“And so, I’m hopeful.”

Kelley said the fight against racism in the midst of a pandemic has made 2020 one of the hardest years of his life. When COVID-19 shut everything down, New Hope Church shifted 7,000 to 8,000 members to online services. They are just starting to come back with watch parties.

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