Churches Engaging Race Issues: Not Perfect but Taking Strides
Following are three brief stories from Boston’s Emmanuel Gospel Center’s Casey Lauren Johnson, written to show the kinds of choices local churches are making to foster racial harmony and, through partnership, see the many resources of the Body of Christ get to where needs are greatest.
A Church Awakening to Race Issues There was a long, slow build of momentum as River of Life Church—a predominantly White congregation in Jamaica Plain—began to address the issue of not just racial diversity but racial equality. It started with the voice of one individual, Ellen Bass, who had been involved with racial reconciliation for some time and wanted to see her congregation join in. Not everyone was on board, but there was enough support within the senior leadership to get some momentum going.
Their efforts began in earnest about two years ago with the formation of a Racial Equity Team. The team strategized about how best to address the issue of race within their congregation. They began with a four-week seminar series on issues of race for the entire congregation in place of worship services. (Read the full story)
A Church Responding to Increasing Diversity Grace Chapel—a multi-ethnic, multi-campus church—began addressing its increasingly diverse congregation in 1995. They started with efforts which simply celebrated the diverse expressions of culture within the congregation through luncheons they called the Grace International Fellowship.
Over the course of years, their efforts grew to include ESOL classes, an International Student Ministry Team, and a Cultural and Urban Awareness Weekend. These ministries not only serve the diverse population within their midst, but also help the rest of the congregation learn from diverse perspectives among them. From these efforts, a Multicultural Initiative was created. Goals include recruiting diverse leadership, facilitating healthy multicultural relationships, creating a visible multicultural environment, and a commitment to ongoing education in these areas. (Read the full story)
Churches Forming Friendships Across Racial Lines For pastors Rev. Dr. Wesley Roberts of People’s Baptist Church (a historically Black congregation) and Paul Atwater of North River Community Church (a predominantly White congregation), racial difference was a reality, but not a motivating factor for their relationship.
An informal connection between the two leaders, while serving on the Congress Committee for Vision New England in 2005, grew into a fruitful “Urban-Suburban Partnership.” They didn’t begin with racial reconciliation in mind—and yet they’ve developed the type of healthy, cross-racial partnership for which many people strive. Rather than focusing on their differences, the pastors built their relationship on common ground. They connected over shared theology and values. They united in their shared goal to bring the gospel first to the city then to the ends of the earth.
In 2010, that goal began to be realized through their congregations teaming up to serve schools in Roxbury. This partnership allowed their congregants unique opportunities to serve the city of Boston while developing friendships across racial lines. (Read the full story)