Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Celebrating Diversity!

Today I begin a new blog series on a topic which is highly relevant and important in many urban churches. Diversity provides the opportunity for us to show in our churches something of the purpose of God - not a matter of political correctness but of living out the values we believe...

On a Sunday morning earlier this year I was able to tell the church about some new staff members and volunteers coming on to our team. Photos of them were shown and revealed a mixture of white and black faces all smiling at us... It was a good Sunday to celebrate the diversity God has given us and to preach about it!

I found the following chart on a Facebook posting – it really shows up some of the cross-cultural challenges to living in a diverse community. Communication differences are a major element in this.

What the British say
What the British mean
What others understand
That’s not bad
That’s not good
That’s poor
That’s a very brave proposal
You are insane
He thinks I have courage
I was a bit disappointed that...
I am annoyed that...
It doesn't really matter
I’m sure it’s my fault
It’s your fault
Why does he think it’s his fault?
Can we consider some other options?
I don’t like your idea
He has not yet decided

It is highly probable that each week in church life at some time we are miscommunicating! We need grace to ask the follow-up questions and check our understanding or to cope with being a little uncomfortable as we wonder what people are really saying. This impacts issues of race, but also of ageism and class.

But in King’s church you can find a black businessman relating to a white guy who’s come off the streets. You can find a single mum relating to an elderly person or a middle-class white person speaking to a Chinese student. There is diversity in age, culture and season of life. We need to regularly celebrate our diversity – but not without recognising that there are continuing challenges – communication being one. Ongoing racism, issues of  legacy, the  pain associated with many of our journeys, the guilt that comes, the challenges that arise from the historical issues of colonialism and slavery, or tribalism – all make for a complex situation because people have been sinned against. Ultimately the challenges are connected to our own sinfulness and selfishness and with the fall of mankind. Sin has come into the world and a part of that is the separation of peoples. If we fail to see and don’t appreciate that fact then the whole issue becomes competitive and a challenge.