What Happened in Oklahoma… Didn’t Begin There

A recent article in the Christian Chronicle prompted my to write this post. You can read it here: www.christianchronicle.org.

The story tells how one of the students at the University of Oklahoma who was caught on video making extremely racist remarks repented and sought forgiveness. The video made headline nationally and resulted in that fraternity being expelled from the University of Oklahoma. The article also mentions that this student had been baptised in a Church of Christ and how the Northeast Church of Christ (a black congregation) played a role guiding him through the process of repentance.

I am grateful for the role the church and its members (including State Sen. Anastasia Pittman) played in guiding his repentance and then granting him their forgiveness. They provide a powerful example of Christianity. I love this quote int the article from Arnelious Crenshaw Jr., the minister at Northeast Church of Christ. Commenting on the necessity to forgive even statements as hurtful as those on the video, he reflected, “I cannot rid the world of hate and prejudice if I’m full of hate and prejudice.

I do not know the student. I also don’t know his faith or family background beyond the statement in the article that he was baptised in a Church of Christ. So my statements from this point are more general than specific to this event.

I wonder, if a high school student was raised in a multi-ethnic church where loving all our neighbours was emphasised, would that student desire to join a white or black fraternity of social club?

I wonder, if a student had friends in a youth group and that youth group had the courage to discuss the emotional impact of racial slurs, would that student use hateful racist language?

I wonder, if our teenagers had spiritual mentors they respected from an ethnic group outside their own, would that influence their attitudes toward other races and cultures?

I understand that young people will always be influenced by peer pressure. I also believe that when our churches are segregated we [unwittingly] promote segregation. It seems normal for us to associate with our own racial group and to exclude others when we have a choice in the matter.

The hope of multi-ethnic churches is that racial diversity becomes not only normal, but valued. We hope that our members will find mono-ethnic clubs, frats, associations, etc strangely abnormal and irrelevant.

The Christian Chronicle story describes how the OU student met with African-American civil rights leaders and pastors. They shared their stories, values and emotional responses to the video. In his public apology the student commented to them, “I can never thank you enough for the way you have embraced me and opened my eyes to things I had not seen before.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our churches could expose our young people to these stories and values before they leave for college. It’s not enough just to say “Racism is wrong”. The church should also give a face to racism so that prejudiced remarks are not directed to nameless, faceless, people “out there”, but can bring to mind faces of friends and Christian role models that are loved and respected.

Thank-you Christian Chronicle for covering this story.

Racing Together @ Starbucks

Did you see THIS STORY in the news? “Starbucks to encourage baristas to discuss race relations with customers”

starbucks race together 02Starbucks is a business.

Starbucks sells coffee.  And sugary frozen drinks.  And tea.  And hot chocolate.  And expensive pastries.

Starbucks exists to make money for shareholders.

Starbucks has decided to take the risk of encouraging its baristas to discuss race relations in the US with customers.

Churches are not businesses.

Churches represent God to the world.  And usually make Folgers coffee.  And homemade cookies.

Churches exist to spread the message of God’s love throughout the world.

Churches, more often than not, choose not to risk discussing race relations but to remain segregated in black and white church buildings.

Why would a business, whose goal is to make money, show greater willingness to address controversial social issues than churches? This move is clearly not part of their business strategy for increasing sales. It’s a decision by Howard Shultz, the CEO, that his company should have a voice on social issues.

Why would a church, whose goal is to spread good news, not want to spread a message that God can bring racial reconciliation to this country? This message is clearly consistent with the greater message of the Gospel. Have we allowed a concern for congregational well-being to take precedence of faithfulness to the Gospel message?

Do you think that Starbucks baristas will have all the answers to improving race relations in the United States? I don’t. But their willingness to initiate the conversation provides the vital first step.

Too many churches, and preachers, and elders, are unwilling to begin the conversation because they feel that they don’t have all the answers. Answers won’t come by waiting for them to drop out of the sky. Answers come through listening to each other and working together to develop mutual respect and even love across ethnic boundaries.

Tragically, churches’ unwillingness to start these conversations denies the power of the Gospel. It suppresses the truth that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.“(1 John 4:4) It allows fear to seize control of the church. Perhaps fear has this power within the church because we haven’t cultivated the loving environment that makes our churches a safe place for these conversations to take place. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 Jon 4:18b)

Starbucks should never provide a safer environment than the church. Something is broken.

How would your church lobby look if you gave each attender this week a cup that said, “Race Together”, along with permission to start a conversation about race.

Communion cup 01Is it irony that each week we actually do hand each other a cup that says “Race Together”?

It’s a cup that Jesus gave us to remind us that he died for all humanity. (Hebrews 10:10)

It’s a cup that reminds us that all Christians form one body. (1 Cor 10:16-17)

It’s a cup that reminds us that we run a race…together. (Hebrews 12:1)

So church… Let’s #RaceTogether.

The Cultural Mosaic blog exists as my effort to initiate conversation on this topic.

I am also greatly encouraged by the work of the The Racial Unity Leadership Summit. This is an organization within Churches of Christ carrying out conversations about race. You can listen to recordings of their most recent gathering, which was held in Memphis, HERE. (The site has several events listed, so look for the heading “Audio Racial Unity Leadership Summit 2015”.)

What We Celebrate Matters

I’ve mentioned this concept a couple of times in previous posts, which means I’m overdue to expand on the concept. What we celebrate matters.

Last Supper 01Jesus knew this truth. Shortly before his death Jesus instructed his disciples to remember his death through a simple meal. (Luke 22:14-20) I imagine that without this instruction the disciple may have decided to celebrate other aspects of Jesus’ ministry. Earlier the apostle Peter had wanted to construct shelters to memorialise the spectacular event of Moses and Elijah appearing and talking with Jesus. Other disciples could easily have chosen to celebrate Jesus healing ministry or concern for the poor.

How would the history of Christianity differ today if the first followers of Jesus decided to politicise His criticism of the religious establishment? Would they have sought revenge against the pagan Romans? Would they have sought to initiate an uprising and seize control of the temple, freeing it from apostate religious leaders?

Instead, Jesus preempts these possibilities by establishing a celebration of his death and his resurrection. This move required the first Christians to pursue understanding of his death. Why did it happen? Do you remember what he said? Do the Hebrew Scriptures speak of a resurrected Messiah? How does this impact us? Does this change our relationship with God?

The simple meal. The memory. The celebration. The understanding. Jesus directed the focus of future generations for thousands of years to the points that are most important.

Our churches still face the same opportunities. In addition to the Lord’s Supper, we get to decide what and who to celebrate.

I once visited a church and watched an elder call every one 18 and under who had a birthday that month to the front of the room. As they stood on the stage with him he prayed over those children. What an affirmation that these children matter to God and to the church!

I know of a church that hosts a VBS each year for special needs children. This event shines the spotlight of love and grace upon these children and their families, letting them know that they’re valued and important.

Last October, the church a friend of mine attends encouraged everyone to wear purple one particular Sunday in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This topic seldom receives attention from churches and this congregation sought to publicly stand with victims of abuse.

I recently saw a church workshop advertised with the theme, “Reprove, Rebuke, & Exhort”. This celebration clearly communicates what matters to them: Reproving and Rebuking. Getting things right. Doing things right.

I’m aware of many churches that have special “Mission Sundays” or “Ministry Fairs” as they highlight the need to send and support missionaries around the world, or the importance for members to involve themselves in church ministries.

Each of these churches chose to express issues, topics, causes, and people that they view as important through celebration.

It would be overly simplistic to infer that the reverse is true. Just because a church does not celebrate a particular cause or person does not mean that they don’t care. No one church can emphasise every issue. If they try to acknowledge everyone, eventually no person or cause is particularly special because everyone’s treated the same.

Which brings us back to where I began: What we celebrate matters!

With this in mind, I’m thrilled that my church celebrated our racial diversity last Sunday through a special day that we call Harmony Sunday. I’ve been part of multi-ethnic churches in the past who preferred not to acknowledge their diversity. Taking one day to celebrate the reality we see each Sunday communicates to the church and the community that each person matters. It reinforces God’s vision for his kingdom as a house for all nations. And most of all, it communicates that this topic is important, not an accident.

I am convinced that events like Harmony Sunday are vital for the good health of multi-ethnic congregations and those seeking to broaden their membership. Among many other benefits, this type of celebration gives permission for conversations about race to take place. It communicates a desire for the church to provide a safe place for dialogue.

Harmony Sunday

I talk to a lot of church leaders who would like their church to contain greater racial diversity. They just don’t know how to go about it.

As I often say on this blog… I don’t have all the answers, but I have some ideas.

One of the difficulties mono-cultural churches face is that they’re always inviting minority populations to come and join the majority population. As I’ve written previously, “What we celebrate matters”. If you’re a white American, can you imagine a Hispanic church successfully inviting the local Chinese community to attend their Cinco de Mayo event? Yet so often we expect other cultures to slip right into the events that we find valuable.

On this week’s blog I’m taking some time to describe what my church is doing to reinforce the Godly pursuit of racial harmony within His kingdom.

HARMONY Sunday 2015Next Sunday will mark the fourth time in seven years that we have hosted Harmony Sunday. This day celebrates the ethnic and cultural diversity God has brought to our church. In round figures we’re about 50/50 black and white. However, we have members, and regular guests, born in at least nine different countries. We also have members whose first language is one of four others besides English. Not bad for a church of 100.

On Harmony Sunday we use our regular Bible Class period to tell stories of inter-cultural experiences or to present academic research relevant to multi-ethnic churches. Then during the worship service the sermon presents a Biblical basis for pursuing a multi-ethnic church and the cultural challenges that come with this diversity.

For most of these events, and again this year, we bring in a guest speaker to share a fresh perspective. This year we have also invited a song leader from one of the black churches in Rochester to share the song leading duties. We are also going to begin our service with children placing 25 small flags at the front of the auditorium, representing the birthplaces and ethnic backgrounds of our members.

Fairy Bread

A vital element of our Sunday program is our meal. We invite everyone to stay behind after worship and eat lunch with us. Because food provides a very tangible connection to our cultural roots, we organise the meal as a congregational pot luck. Each family is asked to bring and share a dish that can be identified with a particular culture. For instance an Italian family might bring spaghetti. My “Australian” offering will be the very English shepherds pie, as well as some Vegemite sandwiches and some fairy bread for dessert.

This year we’ll be adding Ancestry Question Cards to each table as a discussion starter among our members. They’re not controversial questions, just prompts to help us share our stories with each other. For example:

  • How far can you trace your ancestry?
  • Do you know any significant facts/details about your ancestors?
  • Were there any special traditions and/or trinkets in the house that you remember as a kid?
  • Do you know where your surname comes from or what it means?

Finally, this year we will also add a Saturday evening roundtable discussion facilitated by our guest speaker. We have invited our elders, deacons, ministry leaders and spouses as well as a selection of other members. In total we’ll have about 15-20 present. This will provide an opportunity to discuss more directly some of the issues multi-ethnic churches encounter, such as:

  • Do you see culture as different or the same as race?
  • Do you regard our church leadership as having a particular cultural style?
  • How might this church’s worship service better reflect our ethnic diversity?

So here’s our schedule for the weekend:

Saturday Evening – Leadership Roundtable

Sunday

  • Bible Class
  • Worship Service with guest speaker and song leader
  • Lunch

Through all of this planning we hope to instill in our members the value that God created His church to provide a place of love and belonging for all nations. We want to remind ourselves not to take for granted the diversity God has gifted us, and that this Godly trait is worth working to maintain. We hope to demonstrate to our broader community that we are God’s children by the love we show to each other. We want God’s church to lead the community in the area of race relations and this is one step that we can take in that direction.

Black Violins

I have something different this week. It’s a bit of a parable. A friend of mine recently shared a video on her facebook page of two black violinists playing to hip hop beats.

I knew nothing about these artists, but I thought, “How sad if people recognised their talents but insisted they play Mozart.”

At a talk I attended last year by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah.  At one stage he made the point that we’ve given the descriptor “classical” to Western European music most popular starting in the 1600’s. All other musical genres from other cultures and times are given different descriptors that often indicate they are something less than “classical”.

What if people looked at these musicians and thought, “How sad they settled into popular music when they could have joined an orchestra and made a name for themselves as classical musicians.”

I have a stereotype in my mind of what violinists look like. And it’s something much more like this video that was shared with me on facebook than the previous duo.

They’re white. They’re women. They’re wearing evening dresses. And even though they’re clowning around and playing popular tunes they more closely fit the image I expect.

But I’m also forced to face my own violin prejudice. Within the predominantly white culture there’s also the decidedly non-classical genre of fiddle playing. No one looks at a fiddler and says, “That guy has talent. What a shame he’s not part of a philharmonic somewhere.” There’s a willingness to accept this folk music style as a distinct genre because we recognise its roots.

We face a couple of challenges when we consider these different styles of violin performances.

1. Can we value each style for its unique traits, or do we feel an urge to rank them?

2. Would it be possible to host a concert with all these artists performing together?  Would the musicians need to make adjustments in order for the concert to appeal to the entire audience? Would they be willing to make adjustments? Would the crowd give each group equal attention and respect?

Sadly, churches often want to make newcomers from other cultures worship and serve in a style preferred by the majority culture. This attitude is most often unthoughtful, but it communicates a lack of respect for the talents and values of the minority culture. This is why it’s so important for congregational worship to reflect the values and preferences of all cultures if the church is to grow. It’s also why it’s so difficult to change the existing pattern of worship.

What do you think? Is this helpful? What are the strengths and weaknesses of comparing these violin genres to multi-ethnic churches?

After a little research, I can share that the duo in the opening video are known as Black Violin. They’re both classically trained musicians who creatively play a variety of styles. They have performed at the US President’s Inauguration Ball in addition to many other high profile gigs. Here’s one of their recent performances:

A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian Sat Down at a Table, Again

I wrote last week about my experience attending an inter-faith round table dialogue hosted by the Turkish Cultural Center and a Jewish synagogue. These are some further observations from that event.

I am a Christian male with white skin.

I recognise that this “accident” of birth gives me advantages that I don’t fully appreciate. For instance, my friend recently pointed out in a blog how eurocentric it is that European scholars get to name the study of God “theology” and every other group needs to hyphenate their perspective of this study: liberation-theology; feminist-theology; African-American-theology; etc. I live in a society that for hundreds of years has largely been developed for guys like me.

When I walk into a room filled with Jews and Muslims I suddenly find myself a minority. Although I’m a foreigner living in the United States, my adjustments still pale compared to those of Turkish immigrants. Unlike the Jews, I haven’t needed to navigate how employer will allow me to practice my observation of Sabbath or other religious holidays.

I’ve been a minority before. I’ve traveled. I’ve sat in Bible studies where I’ve been a minority. I even joined the Malaysian Student Association while at university. This experience instantly puts me in a situation where I don’t have the answers any more. I’m in a social situation where other people are the experts and I need to listen.

As I sat listening to the conversations between these two groups I became aware that many of the conversations revolve around the topic of how they interact with Christians. Christians ignore their religious customs. Christians rudely expect Jews and Muslims to participate in workplace Christmas festivities. Christians insensitively order pizza for a work lunch, but they all have sausage and pepperoni (pig meat) on them. Christians don’t attempt to understand their holidays but expect them to observe Christian holidays.

As the lone Christian in the room this was a fascinating insight. They regarded all Americans that weren’t adherents to another religion as “Christian”. They viewed Christmas and Easter as deeply religious. But not Thanksgiving.

Every negative interaction they had with a “Christian” in the workplace, or school, or government bureaucracy, influenced the way they viewed Christians. This was true even though many people celebrating Christmas would not describe themselves as Christians. This was true even though the person who offended them may have been an atheist.

While their experiences were very real, and regrettable, their interpretation of them wasn’t very accurate. They would use their experiences as a preliminary filter for their interactions with me, and my church, although my beliefs and behaviours might be very different from the other people with whom they’ve interacted.

The experience of sitting at a table with these people reminds me that not everyone sees the world as I do. As someone representing the dominant culture in my community it’s vital that I listen to minority communities and understand their needs and concerns. I cannot presume to know their circumstances simply by interpreting them through the filter of my personal experiences.

A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian Sat Down at a Table

My discussions on this blog usually revolve around issues related to churches with a mix of black and white members, because that is where I live. On Sunday I had the opportunity to attend an Interfaith Roundtable Discussion hosted by the local Turkish Cultural Center and a local Synagogue.

The Turkish Cultural Center only moved into the neigbourhood a year or so ago. The arrival of a Muslim organization raised a few eyebrows among people I talked to. In about August I made the decision to introduce myself and spent an hour or so talking to the director of the Peace Islands Institute that the TCC sponsors. Peace Islands is like a public relations branch that seeks to facilitate dialogue with groups who only know Muslims through what they see on the nightly news.  As a result of that visit I am now on their email list and receive invitations to their various community events. This was my first opportunity to attend.

muslim jew 01I really wasn’t sure what to expect as I turned up at this event on Sunday, but I enjoyed the experience. The theme for the day was “Interfaith Interactions Within Our Social Circles”. Rather than the series of lectures that I was expecting, the facilitators had us sit at tables with people of other faiths. Strangely, with about 50 people present, I was the only Christian representative in the room. As I was attending in order to observe and learn I chose not to declare my faith affiliation and limited my discussion mostly to questions. Each table was given a sheet of discussion questions and every ten minutes of so a spokesperson from each table would share our main thoughts with the rest of the room. Here’s a sampling of the questions:

  • How do you interact with people from other faiths when you know it is their holiday? (eg Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukuh, Ramadan)
  • Have you greeted people of other faiths on their holidays? How did you feel about it? Do you know and follow your own religious practice whether it promotes or limits well wishes?
  • At the work place where people are of different faith groups, do you eat together and join conversations?
  • You are watching a game in a public place where there are people from other faith groups, and some of these people support your team, how do you interact with them during that time? Do you share your excitement with them? Does your or their attention shift to a curiosity about what you are, or what they are?
  • How do you manage/strategize your communication on social media? Are there moments you are being offended or you think it is offensive? How do you handle it, react to it?

What I appreciated about this process is that it focused upon the common ground between Muslims and Jews. In this way they could learn from each other.

  • They are each minority religious groups within American culture.
  • They each have distinct religious dietary restrictions.
  • They each have holidays unique to their religion/culture.
  • They each often feel like they live in a hostile environment.
  • Most members of each group are first or second generation immigrants.
  • Many members of each group speak English as a second language.

Does it surprise you to consider that Jews and Muslims in the U.S. share so many experiences? Are you amazed that members of these two religions can sit around a table and share experiences and learn from one another? The TV talking heads would have us believe the two groups should be firing rockets at each other.

Of course, I imagine that there are topics of conversation that would raise the heat in the room, but it’s impressive what can be accomplished when we decide to focus on what we share in common rather than our differences.

I believe that churches can learn a lot from this process.

I’m not suggesting that we should sweep all differences under the rug, but most often when the proliferation of mono-racial churches is discussed, all I hear are the differences: race, culture, worship style, preaching style, food…. We need to find ways to remind each of our common ground, our holy ground, without sacrificing our cultural identities.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
(Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV)

More Than a Dream

I didn’t attend a MLK Day event today. I feel ashamed of this. But my daughter was sick in the middle of the night and never went back to sleep. I just couldn’t be downtown at 8:30 for the big event.

I haven’t read as much of Dr King’s writings as I’d like. Each time the third Monday in January rolls around I’m reminded that I’ve neglected them again.

I can easily run through my list of regrets:

  • Not drinking enough coffee with people of other races and cultures;
  • Not using enough diversity in my sermon illustrations;
  • Not taking steps to make my church’s worship services more culturally inclusive;
  • Not praying as I should for God to break down racial barriers in our church and community;
  • Not getting involved in a reconciliation organization outside the church.

If I thought longer I could probably come up with more.

My intent in sharing this list is not a subtle attempt to have you un-friend me. (In fact, if you’re reading this you may be the only active reader I have!)  Rather, I share my regret list as a reminder that progress requires intentionality.

One might cite Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin as an accidental discovery that had a positive impact upon the world, but even there Fleming was intentionally searching for such a substance. He was working in an advanced laboratory. He had advanced degrees in his field. He knew what he was looking at in the fungus covered dish.

Churches sometimes become multi-ethnic by accident. I’ve seen situations where a split in a church with predominantly one race, leads to a significant group from that church joining a sister congregation whose members predominantly represent another race. Suddenly, the second church is multiracial… by accident.

However, if the members of this new congregation think they only need to turn up on Sunday and everything will be okay, they will soon discover otherwise.

The civil rights movement in the United States did not happen by accident. Dr King’s speeches and the movement he spearheaded did not happen by accident. Although Dr King had a dream, he didn’t develop that dream sitting in a rocking chair on a porch watching fire flies dance in the moonlight. His dream evolved from his experience, his faith and his education. His dream only moved toward reality because he was prepared to pursue it and gifted to inspire others to pursue it with him. And as my friend Sean Palmer pointed out in a blog he wrote last week, these people were willing to bleed to change their world.

mlk dream speech 01Churches and church leaders who dream of racial harmony have found a great starting point. What they do next is vital.

Will they seek out other races and listen to their stories?

.     What books will they read?

.          Will they involve themselves in their communities?

.              Will they learn new languages?

.                  Are they willing to make adjustments in the feel of their worship services?

.                      Will they accept new leaders in the church and treat them as equals?

If no one asks questions like these, or if the answer to each question is negative, the dream will die as quickly as it was born.

Through the echoes of history Martin Luther King Day calls us to keep dreaming. It also calls us to action… not accidents.

Each year I read at least one book on the subject of race relations and/or multi-ethnic church leadership. Today I bought the books I’ll read this year. When the third Monday of January rolls around in 2016 I’ll know more about Martin Luther King Jr than I do today. Next year I’ll have one less regret.

Progress requires intentionality.

What intentions do you have for the coming year to turn MLK’s dream to reality?

Multicultural Churches Have Better Parties

How does your church party? Or more to the point, when does your church party?

A monocultural church can quickly answer this question by referring to a calendar. What are the national holidays? Which ones do people celebrate privately? Which ones can the church piggyback?

I know churches that host a 4th of July fireworks extravaganza each year. When I worked in the church in Melbourne someone organized an area-wide Anzac Day picnic each April. In fact, I know that these Anzac Day Picnics occur among Churches of Christ in several cities around the country.

I’ve attended churches that hand out flowers to ladies on Mothers’ Day. I’ve seen churches make a beg event out of Halloween. Some turn the Superbowl into a significant Sunday with a special sermon and other events. Some churches emphasise Thanksgiving while others put all their energy into Christmas.

Martin-Luther-King-Day 01I raise this topic at this time because I serve in a church with a large African-American membership and there are significant dates in their community that I haven’t previously given a lot of attention.

  • Some of my members celebrate Kwanzaa, which runs from 26 December to 1 January.
  • On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation.
  • The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Day.
  • In the United States, March is Black History Month.

I’ve struggled to make these dates significant in the life of my church. It’s something I need to work on. I should expect everyone to celebrate Superbowl Sunday with me if I’m not willing to join by black brothers and sisters in their celebrations.

But these dates are more than just an excuse to have a party. They also tell an important theological redemptive story of justice, equality and love for neighbour. Our churches and world need to hear this message and these dates seem to provide a great opportunity to raise the topic.

Beyond just preaching on these topics or showing a motivational video, I’m very curious whether other churches involve themselves in community celebrations of these events. I know that sometimes members participate, but I wonder how many churches actively promote participation in community organised MLK reconciliation events?

As churches grow more culturally diverse we need to embrace a willingness to expand our celebrations. Hispanic holidays are more difficult to schedule as each country have their own significant days. Which Hispanic holidayIMG_2204s will your church celebrate as the neighbourhood demographics change?

How could your church celebrate Chinese New Year? What message would this send to local international students or migrants?

We have quite a large Indian workforce in Rochester, although no Indian members attending our church. I don’t even know their significant holidays. It seems to me that a significant question would be, “How can the church engage this population if these holidays are all related to Hinduism?”

A couple of years ago I hosted an Australia Day game night at my church. We didn’t have a large turnout, but I greatly appreciated those who turned out on a snowy, January night.

Parties, holidays, and celebrations provide a great indicator of the progress a church has made down the road of cultural integration. These events help us to not only better understand each other, they also help churches build a bridge toward these communities outside the church.

When a multicultural church sits down to plan calendar events for the coming year, it should intentionally ask the question, “Which cultural celebrations do we want to participate in this year?” Far too often we simply participate in those most familiar to us.

I’d love for you to leave a comment describing a cross-cultural celebration you’ve experienced.

Conversations on Race and Racial Reconciliation

As my last post indicated I’ve been struggling a bit with my other workload and writer’s block on this blog. But in the wake of the grand jury’s verdict in Ferguson last night I feel like something positive and constructive needs to be said.

A friend pointed me to this video and so I’m sharing it with you.

It’s not a perfect video. It wasn’t filmed yesterday. Thirty minutes is hardly enough time to solve all the challenges confronting Ferguson and other communities around the United States that live under the shadow of racism. Some of the statements in the discussion made me really wish the pause button would let me jump in and seek clarification.

I share the video because in it I see hope. I see hope because church leaders are discussing serious issues around racism. I see hope because they’re willing to talk about difficult subjects. I see hope because I know the passion these guys display for racial harmony is not an act for the camera. I see hope because this video models the conversations that need to take place in churches around the country. It’s conversations like these that can open eyes and hearts leading to transformation and reconciliation. And I see hope because you’re taking time to watch it.