I have learned that multicultural ministry will not happen in a sustainable way by chance. I asked a pastor who is African American to let me, a white United Church of Christ pastor, ask questions of him, and to learn, from his perspective, what I should know to be most inviting and most sensitive to issues that would inevitably arise in crossing racial divides. Following his advice, I convened all the persons of color in the church (and others from outside the church) and asked what made our church welcoming or not welcoming. I asked them to be truthful, not nice. Though all said the people of the church were very hospitable, one woman put it succinctly: “I miss the rhythm of home.”
Ensuring a “rhythm of home” became a worship organizing principle, not just regarding African Americans from a Baptist background, but also the large number of former Catholics and others who had begun attending.
I also had to prepare our leaders for changes that must occur to make the church more open to additional styles of worship and leadership. They had to be just as excited as I was. My mantra, since then picked up by others, became “Who is not at the table?”
Ensuring a “rhythm of home” became a worship organizing principle, not just regarding African Americans from a Baptist background, but also the large number of former Catholics and others who had begun attending. Worship services must now, as much as possible, contain some piece of “home” in them for as many different people as possible. What “pieces” they are has continued to change with time. This “rhythm of home” principle also guides the choice of lay leaders, guest preachers, and musicians as we have genuinely become a more diverse congregation than we were a few years ago.
Those members who participated in those initial conversations have thanked me for caring enough to ask their ideas and for creating a safe place to express their opinions. They seemed genuinely surprised that I would care. And that pastor I consulted and I, at the time only acquaintances, have become wonderful friends.