Recently, I spoke to a Senor Pastor who was intrigued with the work and ministry of DIASPRA, my journey to a church in Scotland, and position as a pastor of a Burmese Refugee Congregation. His curiosity came with many questions. Mainly, why I choose the difficult path of understanding and helping churches embrace diversity, when most churches are happy to remain comfortable where they are?
I remain unapologetic when it comes to Church Diversity. I have visited many churches and one thing I know for sure. Church Diversity is a clear calling. It doesn’t happen by accident. It is intentional.
Every decision made by a church is a decision toward or away from the benefits of being a diverse and inclusive congregation. Leadership choices, authentic website design, spiritual formation classes, and faith partnerships are few of the critical components. Our actions towards becoming a diverse church are the skeleton to the body of Christ we seek to reach and serve.
As a point of disclosure, I confess every church I have joined in my lifetime, was a homogeneous church. African, European, and Asian-American churches who enjoyed unique cultures of worship. They welcomed the stranger, but each continued to navigate within their own culture during times of opportunity. That’s another blog for another day. As I connect the dots from church culture to church culture, I believe God had a plan.
I grew up attending a small church just outside of Richmond, Virginia. Attended by African-Americans. I do not remember seeing a European-American inside the walls of this church. During my teens, I briefly began attending church with a friend. A different denomination with an active youth program. My cautious parents made the decision for me to return to my home church. They were not ready for me to switch denominations or cultures. Four years in undergrad bounced me from church to church in Northern Virginia near Winchester. I never found a place to call my home church, but enjoyed the many expressions of worship I experienced during those years. I believe God’s plan to open my eyes to the beauty of His church was working.
I reclaimed my calling to serve and work alongside a congregational body when I purchased a farm in rural Virginia. I found a church close-by attended by only European-Americans.
After years of serving this church in lay leadership, the pastor accepted a call for another position in Maryland and began his move North. Before leaving, he shared with me a pivotal moment in the life of the church. He recalled within weeks of us walking through the doors, there was a special called meeting of the deacons. They asked the pastor, “What happens if they want to join?” The pastor responded, “If for any reason they are not allowed to join, I will resign my position as Senior Pastor.” He didn’t apologize to the deacons, instead he offered two solutions, open our church doors to everyone or his resignation. In this small church near Fredericksburg, Virginia, the pastor used his position of privilege to stand up for oneness in the Body of Christ. There are opportunities around each of us in church leadership and in the service of the church.
The resistance to sameness in our churches in America, helps churches and church leadership open doors to people who do not look like them or share the same culture. “The most segregated hour in our nation” as Martin Luther King said, begins in the small decisions we confirm as churches. It begins in our policies, leadership choices, and community outreach, which are just the tip of the iceberg.
Long before 11:00 arrives on Sunday morning, hundreds of decisions have been made within the church body and leadership to move the church closer or further away from being a house of worship for all God’s people.
I am unapologetic for the ministry of DIASPRA. I serve to help churches actively engage in the gospel work of church diversity. My calling is covered in the Blood of Christ. It is the intentional ministry reaching out into the world.
As I stand in the pulpit on Sunday mornings as a guest pastor, in churches identified as African, European, Asian, and Hispanic-American, I pray in that space. “God use me to open the hearts of your people and the doors of this church. Amen.” If this is where God is leading you, begin the conversation, do the work, act!
Awaken Our Hearts!
Daynette Snead, is an Ordained Baptist Minister and Pastor of Community Outreach Pastor serving, First Chin Baptist Church, a Burmese refugee congregation in Eastern North Carolina, President of Diaspra (Diversity Inclusion A Support Presentation Association), Licensed Lifeforming Diversity Coach, and Chair of the Racial Reconciliation Ministry Team of the Cooperative Baptist Church Fellowship North Carolina. She coaches congregations and church leadership towards intercultural ministry. Daynette is a Doctor of Ministry cohort at Gardner-Webb University and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org