Benjamin “Ben” Beckett had a vision of salt and pepper in the congregation. So Antioch AME Church is inviting men and women of all colors to attend a special “CommUNITY Around Christ” church service on Sunday, March 5.
The special service will begin at 3:30 p.m., with a fellowship meal from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m.
Normally the event would have been Men’s Day, honoring men’s role in the church, similar to Women’s or Youth Days. But, this year, the men dedicated their day to a bigger cause.
“We felt as though … we could use the Men’s Day platform to be more socially conscious as to what is going on in the country today,” Beckett said, “to address a lot of the social issues, especially the division that we seem to be having in our country today.
“We may not be able to change Washington or change the world, but we can certainly change Dagsboro and Frankford, and perhaps Sussex County,” Beckett said. “It’s gotta start somewhere, so why not here?”
Speakers include the Rev. Alan Greijack of Dagsboro Church of God, the Rev. Michael Vaughan of the Father’s House and Presiding Elder Winton Hill of AME’s Dover District.
Beckett was inspired partly by a prior message of Hill’s: “How the world has changed and how the church also has to change. The world doesn’t look the same. You no longer have black and white. You have mixed, you have people who identify with more races and backgrounds than ever before. As a church, you have to appeal to those people or, if not, you basically are missing the purpose.”
He said he sought guest speakers with integrity, who “walk the walk” in their community.
“Throughout history, the church has really been the center of civic interaction,” said Beckett, although it feels to him like “the 10 or 11 o’clock hour on Sunday morning is still one of the more segregated days of the week. So this is an attempt to get people out of their comfort zone and try new things.”
Even Beckett has found himself stepping out of the box in the past year.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people that I may not normally approach,” he said, remembering enlightening conversations with an airport employee who had never flown and a “biker chick” who had two sons buried in Arlington National Cemetery. “It was just kind of an awakening to me. … I would’ve really missed out if I hadn’t had those conversations. I think there are a lot of opportunities that have a lot to offer. We just need to build that bridge to get there.
“I want all people to feel welcome to come,” Beckett said. “I have no idea what the turnout will be like. I do believe that it will be a great day for Christ.”
But it’s not a one-day mission.
“I would like it to be spread,” Beckett said. “I would like other churches to say, ‘OK — we saw something good at Antioch. Maybe we can start something in Sussex County, as far as building a more inclusive, loving people.”
Men’s Day is organized by Beckett and Jeff Taylor. Antioch AME is located at 194 Clayton Avenue, Frankford, and led by the Rev. Dania R. Griffin. The phone number is (302) 732-1005.