COLUMBIA — Joy Randle is on a mission to bring Columbia's black and white churches together, one giant rubber nose at a time.
"They say Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week," Randle said. "Did Jesus ever say to divide like that? No. This is a man-made flaw in Christianity."
Randle wants to change that, at least for one Friday night a month. She envisions youth from area churches, both black and white, getting together to learn the art of "Christian clowning."
Donning a purple wig and matching giant shoes, Randle has performed in Sunday school classrooms and day care centers for about 10 years. She uses puppets and songs to tell stories and teach lessons from the Bible, and she sees an opportunity to train some of Columbia's youth to do the same thing.
Randle said she has reached out to nearly 40 churches, both black and white, and invited each church to take about a dozen elementary-aged kids to Second Missionary Baptist on Nov. 8 for the first event. As of Thursday, she had commitments from 10 different black churches to participate, but had yet to hear back from any of the white churches.
Before the puppets and purple wigs, Randle worked part time as a nurse at the MU Psychiatric Center. She said the children and teens she cared for there helped her see the need for youth activities that promote relaxation and collaboration, rather than stress and competition.
"Kids are encouraged to compete all the time: between clothes, grades and sports," Randle said. She said she hopes the clowning events will help kids expand their social circles to include those with a different skin color, who speak a different language at home or who attend a different school.
Churches who wish to participate can contact Joy Randle at 573-529-0676.