Dreaming of the Multicultural Church

Rudy and I were playing around one night on AIM when we started talking about the recent thread at the Emergent site on People of Color and the Emerging Church. Like many right brained creative types, we began to think about possibilities for furthering the conversation.

It’s important to know the context of my ministry. I’ve now been at the Antioch United Methodist Church for around 8 months. During that time, I’ve had a chance to become more immersed in my community and studied the demographics. It seems that I live and minister in one of the most diverse communities in Nashville. Right at half of the people who live within a three mile radius of our church are non-white. Over a quarter of the population identifies as African American, and there is a large and growing Latino presence. Just down the road is the largest Kurdish enclave outside of Iraq, Turkey, or Kurdistan.

And yet, my congregation, which has had some struggles along the way, is pretty much white and suburban. In fact, a large percentage of my congregation lives outside of the community in the satellite suburbs around Nashville, traveling past several other churches on their way to Sunday Worship. There’s nothing especially wrong with this, and I’m glad for these folks dedication to our community. And yet, if we are to survive as a congregation, we have to begin thinking about how we might change the makeup of our church so that it better reflects our surrounding neighborhood. But discerning how to make that change isn’t easy.

It’s that reality that led me to wonder if there were others who were equally as desperate as I. With that in mind, as well as a recognition that the “emerging church” has been fairly monolithic in ethnic identity, Rudy and I came up with an idea for a luncheon while all our friends were in Nashville for the Emergent Convention. We are calling this event “Dreaming of the Multicultural Church” and have begun to involve other leaders in the conversation. As of right now, Rudy, Brian McLaren (the Godfather), D J Chaung, and Efrem Smith will be resourcing this conversation. Jenell Paris is also talking with us, although she’s unable to attend the luncheon.

In preparation for this event, we’ve created a new blog which we’re using to share information and hopefully facilitate conversation on issues of inclusion and diversity. You can find this at www.vividchurch.com..

Hey, if you are coming to Nashville, we’d love to have you be a part of this discussion. We’re limiting participation to 40 persons to allow for more personal connection. We’ll have some good southern barbecue (although I’ll have something for the vegetarians among us). E-mail me if you are interested.

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