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Church celebrates integration 47 years later amidst national discussion about race relations

The Dublin United Methodist Church formed from two segregated churches in 1970

DUBLIN, Va. – A church in the Town of Dublin is celebrating the anniversary of integrating with a black church in town. In 1970, Mount Pleasant and Dublin Methodist churches came together for what they called a "basket picnic" to commemorate the occasion. Now, given the open display of racism in Charlottesville and this weekend in Boston, members say this occasion is taking on a bigger meaning.

It was over a picnic table that two churches, black and white, were united as one.

"It was a closing day for all the memory of Mt. Pleasant, but an opening day for the future of Methodists in Pulaski County," said Mattie Holmes, an original member of the all-black Mount Pleasant Methodist Church.

That same meal was shared 47 years later after Sunday's service at Dublin United Methodist Church. Holmes, who is now 93, says the churches meant a lot to the black community back then.

"At that particular time, the county still had not offered us any formal education beyond the ninth grade, and that means that the churches and any other local businesses that could hire a school, that was where we went to school," said Holmes.

But when Mount Pleasant Church lost its pastor, original member Ruth Howe remembers when her all-white church, Dublin Methodist, stepped in.

"Our preacher at that time would go down and preach for them, and then come and preach for us, and he really was the instigator of that," said Howe.

Current Pastor Don Hanshaw says it quickly became clear, the union wouldn't be easy.

"We had a cross that was burnt on the pastor's front yard, which was just beside the church. We had people leave this church when that decision was made," said Hanshaw.

Today, members say the violence in Charlottesville brings them back to that time.

"I felt sad to even hear it on the TV," said Howe.

But Holmes says, there's a lesson to be taken from this small community in Dublin, that has managed all these years to love one another.

"We are all God's children, and we're no different and this is what they should realize," said Holmes.