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Bishop Allen Smith (left) and Pastor Greig Kegler, Sr. have joined forces to unite their congregations in praise and worship. Members of the Church of God and Praise Tabernacle Church have embraced the once-a-month service.

Photo by Michaele Duke

When a pair of preachers come together as one, spiritual diversity blossoms. Praise Tabernacle Church Pastor Greig Kegler, Sr., and the Church of God Bishop Allen Smith have joined forces once a month to unite their congregations and the idea is working.

The two have much in common; they are focused on the philosophy of Jesus and they were searching for a way to bring the community together. “It just clicked in the beginning,” said Bishop Smith.

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A member of Praise Tabernacle Church prepares for a joint service with The Church of God. Pastor Greig Kegler, Sr. and Bishop Allen Smith came up with the idea to unite their congregations as a way to express boundaries do not exist under God’s love.

Photo by Michaele Duke

As the Church of God is predominately white and Praise Tabernacle Church is predominantly black, the combined services cross racial barriers. “If we’re going to come together we really need to be together, from the pulpit to the back door,” said Kegler. This is the focus of the service and one that he has been familiar with for much of his life.

Pastor Kegler is an accomplished drummer and organist. He attended the School of Performing Arts in Rochester New York and was exposed to the Catholic Church as a minister of music. “Father Jim Kellahan, Corpus Christi Church, wanted a gospel mass so that they could invite more African Americans to the predominantly white church,” said Kegler. “The mass drew the African Americans.”  

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Children of the Church of God and Praise Tabernacle Church participate in every aspect of the joint service, including praise and worship that can last an hour.

Photo by Michaele Duke

His decision to become a pastor occurred when he was a teenager. Kegler said it was his pastor’s wife in his church in New York that sent him on his spiritual path. “She could see things in people that they couldn’t see in themselves. She saw the preacher in me,” said Kegler. At the age of nine he presented the Easter speeches and went on to preach on youth night. “It was a church that was very welcoming for young people and to be able to find yourself in ministry, that had a lot to do with birthing, me being a preacher.”

Kegler’s mother is a native of Salters. When she and her husband moved back to the area about 20 years ago, Pastor Kegler made the decision to move closer to home where he pastored in a church in Trio and eventually opened Praise Tabernacle. He said at first he was intimidated by the idea to move here. “I see so many churches and so many pastors but I had to do what God says and the doors began to close and I had no other choice to keep moving forward. Rather than throwing in the towel and look at all these different excuses, obviously the Lord had a special call for me to be here.” In October, Kegler will be ordained as bishop.

Bishop Smith’s journey began at the age of 13, as a youth speaker at the Church of God in Rock Hill. He would later teach on Wednesday nights, which drew the attention of the adults. “The pastor saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself,” said Smith. He graduated from the Church of God Seminary and become a youth pastor. At the age of 33, he was ordained as a bishop. He and wife Julie opened their church at 105 Gourdin St., Kingstree, in 2000. “I believe it was divine intervention,” said Smith. “We came and we fit.”

Pastor Kegler and wife, Lady Tarnesha Kegler (who is also a minister) holds service each Sunday at 482 Nelson Blvd., Kingstree. The service begins at 2 p.m. in order to accommodate young people. “Those people who may have hung out late Saturday night, they need the Lord too,” he said. “That’s what Bishop Smith and I are trying to do, to accommodate the people,” Smith agrees. “I know everybody doesn’t worship the same way but I believe, as well as Pastor Kegler, where the Bible says, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there’s liberty, so I think we should let the people worship the Lord the way they need to.”

Crystal Powell attends Church of God and considers the union of the churches a blessing. “I am so glad that God let Pastor Kegler of the Praise Tabernacle and Bishop Allen Smith of the Kingstree Church of God to cross paths,” she said. “Christian fellowship is more than attending church — it is coming together into the body of believers, becoming “one” in worshipping, loving, caring, and sharing. This is the way fellowship will affect all of us if we get in and dig together. With the unity of the Holy Spirit and a divine purpose, we must all put our shoulders to the plow until God’s plan is complete. It has been a great blessing to me and the Kingstree Church of God to have met Pastor Kegler and his church family. The Praise Tabernacle is a great place to worship God and really feel at peace to worship freely.” View the video here:

The churches host the joint service once-a-month, which has been embraced by the congregations. “There’s just a sweet spirit each time we come together,” said Kegler. “His congregation makes us feel so welcome, our congregation does the same.” Bishop Smith is confident the movement will last as congregations are seen as one. “There is no place for division in the Kingdom of God,” he said. “Racism is definitely not in the Kingdom of God.” To view a video of the combined service visit our gallery at www.kingstreenews.com.