Sunday, October 30, 2005

off to church

a multicultural task force meeting then a luncheon to figure out if people of color are happy in the congregation.

sigh.

i have a feeling this isn't going to be a very productive afternoon.

[update: i've been on this com'tee for about 18 months or two years and, true to the presbyterian church, it's taken a while to get anything past the supervising com'tee. can you believe it took us one year to fully explain what we meant by 'diversity'?

anyway, we were convened because there was some concern that this church of mine, i call it the Grey Lady, was too white. well, rich and white, and we weren't being responsive to the needs of some of the people we serve as well as our racial/ethnic congregants. so this sunday was a chance to check in with people and see if their needs were being met - not necessarily as brown people, but was there anything we need to be aware of? well, it was not a totally useless afternoon; the general consensus is that the Grey Lady has awesome programs, educational and social programs, the pastor's great and no one feels weird. but...

we can't help the fact that, geographically and demographically, the Grey Lady is very very white. WASPy white. the kind of white that you didn't know existed. the kind of white that, up until some years ago, still wore morning suits on sunday morning. but the community we serve is not white; it's black and brown and poor and we wonder how we can be more effective in our outreach. but...

the lay leaders and the pastors just don't get how white it is. or how rich. i mean, we know we're a well-to-do congregation; but the PTB don't quite understand the blindingly obvious class difference; why would a single mother living in cabrini join our church (though she takes our classes and her kids are tutored here) when there's a church, a perfectly good church, right in her neighborhood?

and we're conscious of that. we don't want to take away a community church just because we're feeling...weird that our congregation is overwhelmingly b/y/ch/uppie. but...

we're aware that more can be done to foster community - this is our charge, to create community. we would like to see our community more inclusive, more diverse, because we truly believe a diverse urban congregation is a strong congregation; but...

there is a need here at the Grey Lady; we spent a whole afternoon interviewing ourselves when the need isn't us; frankly i think the people of color who've joined this church are fine with it. we have no needs. we like it here. the issue is how to reach out to the folks in cabrini. and we don't talk with them enough to know what we can do.

let's throw it out there: how do you make a diverse christian community without being patronizing?]

2 comments:

Gwen Stefani said...

is there any way we could get an update on this one??
I am very interested. what is your involvement with issues of race/diversity in/out of the church? are you a participant in the discussions, or some kind of leader/catalyst for the discussions?
these are things that are important to me, so I'm curious. thanks.

ding said...

another question:
and how do you impress upon the church leadership (and i'm part of that leadership) the importance of this outreach, when the majority of the church thinks everything is ok?

we feed the homeless, we minister to the infirm and sick - what's the big deal we don't have alot of poor congregants? or brown congregants? what's the big deal?