I worry about my son

I worry about my son, should he ever go to Florida or any place where someone may misunderstand what he is doing and kill him. I worry about my son, to even bring him into this world where we are still so torn up about subjects of race and personal appearance.

I worry about my son, who may yet not be able to act in the same way as his friends and neighbors without putting his own life at greater risk. I worry about my son, for in my hope to bring about a family that crosses racial divides he may not yet find his way to adulthood and to the fulfillment of his dreams.

Let me tell you this, I do not currently have a son or any child. However, it has been my hope to be a father and to share with that child the same love I have found from my God, my family and my community.

Nevertheless, when children are followed and killed for looking suspicious I worry about how suspicious my child may look when he walks down the street at night. I worry about my own inability to explain to him what it means to be a man with dark skin since my own skin is so light.

No one, no child nor adult, should have to act differently because of the color of his or her skin. No one should have someone with a gun following him or her down the street after stopping by the store for a snack.

I have been so pleased, for the most part, of how society has accepted my marriage to a bi-racial woman. I had been thinking that the U.S. society has come so far in countering racism.

Unfortunately, it only takes one incident to remind us that there is much further to go before we will truly know that “there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free” (Galatians 3:28).

I want my child to live. I want him to enjoy life. And, I want him to feel free to walk home alone from the store so that he, too, may grow up one day to experience the hope and joy of fatherhood.

 

MLK's dream may take awhile.

What is the foundation for multicultural worship?

A diverse group of young United Methodists.

How do we welcome into our worshiping community the growing numbers of young people with cultural backgrounds different from our own? (A UMNS photo by Shalom Agtarap)

Last week I suggested having a monthly worship time utilizing the gifts of all the diverse peoples in a community. What would that look like and how would it come about?

First, one needs a team of people to guide this that would include many persons from the various parts of the community one seeks to reach. A good place to start would be the leadership teams of the various existing worshiping congregations in the community. The people on the new team need to be committed to the idea of being God’s community together, utilizing the shared gifts of all.

My vision is not of rotating which cultural group is taking lead. It is not to be worship in the Hispanic tradition one month, an Asian tradition the next, and the Euro-American tradition the third month. Rather, multiple traditions, and even languages, need to be woven together so that all God’s people celebrate the glory of God’s creation.

Sure, there will need to be some variation month to month to engage the different traditions in each part of the service, but care must still be taken that all parts connect to the whole as in any typical worship service. The primary purpose of this time is not to highlight the many cultures, but to worship God. If combining specific items becomes a detriment to worship, then please end that particular combination.

There are reasons worship has remained segregated for many years even as the United States has become more diverse and integrated.  Nevertheless, I believe we can find a way to worship together. We must explore that possibility through attempts at putting it into practice. A monthly service, separate from normal worship times would allow for the building of a multicultural worshiping community without disrupting already existing experiences.

How do you build worship for the new community?

Multicultural Choir

A multicultural choir sings at a United Methodist event in 2008. (A UMNS photo by Kathy Gilbert)

One of my main concerns for the church is building a community of diverse peoples. This has been a concern of mine from childhood when one of my favorite songs said “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” I have wanted to bring all of God’s precious children together, but have struggled to envision how to bring that about.

Recently, I read about “Women’s Worship” and a Children First worship time. One common suggestion was to create a monthly worship service addressed around the needs of the specific community. Could this be a way to begin a worship time intended for an audience of many ethnic and cultural backgrounds?

First off, let me say that I am not trying to segregate the worshiping community. Ethnically and culturally, we are already highly segregated in worship. Even the congregation where I currently worship, which prides itself on its diversity, finds itself segregated from Hispanic and Asian worshiping communities that use its facilities. I am looking for a way to bring people together.

I envision a monthly service at a time separate from any current worship time. It would be a time to highlight the gifts of many in the community in ways that are not regularly done in the weekly worship services of any group. Yes, language barriers will need to be addressed. However, the purpose would be to worship God together with each other as the diverse people God made us to be. While we may not understand every single word spoken, we should be able to understand the love of God flowing through our neighbors.

Palm Sunday: Marching is Not the End of the Story

Civil Rights March on WashingtonThis morning as I heard the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, I could not help but think of an historical march on Washington. Both moments were exciting times for those who participated in them. The people thought that victory was surely within their grasp. However, both the story of Christ and the story of the civil rights march have yet to be completed.

Christ was in pain when he entered Jerusalem on the fateful day. He knew what lay ahead of him. Surely he would have loved it if the march on Jerusalem signified a turning to God, but Christ knew it would not be enough. Similarly, Martin Luther King, Jr., surely would have loved for his march on Washington to signify an end to racism. However, he knew the journey was not over and that he “may not get there” with us.

Martin Luther King is not God as Jesus is, but King gave his life in service to Christ. Both died so that others may live in freedom. However, the story is still not over. Even though the people of Christ are now leaders of many nations, we still see pain and suffering throughout the world and within predominately Christian societies. Even though a black man is now President of the United States, racism continues to be present in this country, even within the government that he leads.

The journey is not over. We must remember the sacrifices that Christ and Martin Luther King made for us. We must continue to strive for holy peace and the end of all prejudice and injustice. The march on Jerusalem was not the end of the story, but neither is Christ’s death and resurrection. I know I need to find a way to bring about truly Christ’s, and King’s, beloved community. How about you?

Is African-American Methodism Stronger?

Pan-Methodist Bishops

Episcopal leaders from the various Pan-Methodist denominations gather for a photo in 2006. (A UMNS photo by Linda Green)

The United Methodist Church continues its decline in membership while three predominately African-American Methodist denominations join forces to reach the black male. The United Methodist News Service reports that the United Methodist Church in the United States has declined to about 7.75 million members. Meanwhile, other reports say that the three largest predominately African-American Methodist denominations together have more than five million members. This leads me to think that there may soon, if not already, be more racial/ethnic Methodist U.S. members in the various Pan-Methodist denominations than there are white members. Perhaps the United Methodist Church needs to take some lessons from their African-American counterparts and bring in more racial/ethnic leadership

I do commend the United Methodist denomination for emphasizing reaching new people in new places. However, this also means it needs to put new people in new leadership places as well. How can the UMC reach the racial/ethnic people of today if we are unwilling to share the leadership? This does not mean that we need to focus on putting an African-American to head our new church start program or a Hispanic to lead in evangelism. My belief is that racial/ethnic leadership needs to be across the board. We need to get new voices into how we handle our finances, what type of Christian education programs we form and what are the social and mission priorities the church must engage in.

I hope the United Methodist Church was watching what its Pan-Methodist colleagues were doing and saying at the Great Gathering last week. I also hope each congregation is getting to know its neighbors. The church cannot afford to remain isolated. It must open itself up to God’s people wherever they are.