Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Why celebrate diversity?

Today at King’s Church London we now attend a church where no one group is in a majority. The Nigerians are not a majority, the Caribbeans are not a majority, the white British are not the majority. We are very diverse and I like it that way. But it is appropriate to look at our diversity from time to time to see the challenges clearly, and also to celebrate our differences. To celebrate what we are because there are many things we are not! What we are is a cross-generational, cross-ethnic, racially mixed, cross- cultural church.

Why do people celebrate?  To mark moments. And different cultures do this in a variety of ways. In white British culture we tend to mark the birthdays at ages 18 and 21. Often there will be a family party. Now, I have learned from Pastor Robert Kwami that in Ghana you would mark the ages of 50, 70 and 80 – due honour is given to those attaining these ages. There will be a huge celebration involving the whole extended family – often taking a weekend – with lots of people, lots of food, lots of parties! Best clothes will be worn – and the pastor of the church will be invited and involved! I was invited to the 50th birthday party for a Nigerian recently – it was like going to a wedding!  There was a picture of the family with the cake and then a second photo– one of the pastor with the cake! The pastor was honoured and is given high status in that culture.... I’m just saying...!

In other situations, a couple’s engagement is a moment to celebrate. In white British culture you fall in love and the young man might ask the permission of the father to marry his daughter. In an African culture this relationship is seen as the coming together of two families so it is about more than just the couple. An engagement party would involve exchanging gifts between families. These variations are cultural preferences – there is no right or wrong way involved - but we need to appreciate the differences and learn from each other’s cultures. It is an enriching thing!