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Two Shawnee churches share same building to serve others

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar

Citizens across America are proving that the country is not as hopelessly divided as the headlines may lead one to believe. USA TODAY Network reporters are bringing forth examples of how citizens are working across perceived divides to address differences between conservatives and liberals, promote listening to neighbors with opposing views and to solve issues such as racial inequities and gun violence. The USA TODAY Network is reporting on these “Strange Bedfellows” as part of Hidden Common Ground, a key component of USA TODAY’s unique local-to-national coverage of the 2020 presidential election.

A sign outside a church building in Shawnee, Okla., advertises the home of two denominations as they share a common mission to serve the same neighborhood.

Shawnee, Okla. — Through the years, though attendance rolls have experienced peaks and valleys, Calvary Baptist Church's purpose has always remained the same — a hands-on mission to serve others, focusing on socioeconomics.

Now 100 years old, Calvary is still pushing forward with a pioneering spirit. While some churches these days are finding reasons to split, Calvary has partnered with another church at a whole new level — serving together in the same location.

For about a year and a half now the site at 214 W. Farrall has been home to two churches — one Baptist, the other Presbyterian — as they choose to embrace their common ground: a heart for the troubled and poverty-stricken in the community.

Calvary's pastor, the Rev. David Henry said Shawnee Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. Matt Wiley, had reached out to his church for help to get closer to the area of town it felt called to minister.

“They were like a fish out of water all the way across town,” he said. “They had a desire to be here on the south side.”

At that time located at 2100 E. 45th Street, Shawnee Pres then made the move, becoming building buddies with Calvary at Easter 2019. 

Sharing quarters with Shawnee Presbyterian has been an easy partnership, Henry said.

Like all roommates, to succeed the two churches had to work out a schedule for occupying the same space.

“At 9 a.m. on Sunday Shawnee Pres holds its worship service, while we (Calvary) are having Sunday School,” Henry said. “Then at 10:30 a.m., we switch.”

He said the system has been working very well.

“There haven't been any conflicts,” he said. “It's been really great.”

He said it's simply good stewardship to share space and resources so effectively.

The two may be different denominations, but they have  very similar mission and goals when it comes to helping the underserved.

Settling into its shared space and shared mission, the duo continues to strengthen its bond.

“On the first Sunday of each month the two churches have lunch together,” he said. 

Henry said, moving forward, Calvary has a goal to become increasingly more direct in its involvement with the community.

“We want to look into things like housing and a community garden,” he said.

The Hidden Common Ground project is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Ipsos conducted the public opinion research and the Kettering Foundation is a research partner for the initiative.