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“This is our third week together and it seems to me it gets better and better,” said White, a broad-shouldered man with a commanding presence and booming voice. “I truly thank God for this.”
Clad in a black short-sleeved shirt and pants, White played the piano and led the congregation in a hymn. Later he beat drums with his hands and encouraged people to stand and sing together.
“In the African-American tradition, after the sermon, you sing,” White said. “I want you to sing with me. … You have my permission to say amen.”
Lois Swanson, 83, who’s attended Clark Memorial since her childhood, said White and his congregants have brought new verve to the church.
“I think we were both needy,” Swanson said. “They needed a place, and we needed the life that they bring. They’re much more spirited … I think we’re gaining a lot. His whole demeanor is just enthusiasm and spirituality. It fills me with hope.”
Frances Goodlow, 70, a longtime member of White’s congregation, said she and other Grace members immediately felt welcomed. She sees a long future ahead for the two congregations.
“I’m loving it,” she said. “I feel at home. They’ve made us feel that way. We were not at peace at all. But now I feel at home.”
Rose French • 612-673-4352