Black Church. White Church.

4 09 2011

I don’t believe in white church or black church, but not because I’m color blind. I believe that one of the most offensive things anyone can say to me or any person of another race is that they don’t see color. To me, that’s a complete denial of the essence of a person and part of the fabric that makes them who they are. I just don’t believe that the Bible instructs us to have separate churches. On the same token, I don’t believe God or the Bible calls for us to abandon our cultural identity once we become a Christian. Of course, our number one allegiance is to God, and through him we are all one in spirit. But I tend to favor the stir-fry theory of multi-culturalism over the melting pot idea…After all, what kind of world would we be without the diversity of various cultures?

That being said, the reality in our fallen world is that most churches in America are either predominately black or predominately white, and thus we have “black” church and “white” church. And herein lies my dilemma…

I grew up in “black” churches all my life, but for the past 6 years or so, I’ve been attending “white” churches. Throughout these years, I’ve learned so much by stepping out of my comfort zone–I’ve made some great relationships with people that I normally would not have socialized with, I’ve learned about other forms of worship, teaching and organization, and I cherish and value all of these things. But I’m getting to a point where I am missing the “black” church terribly. I miss several aspects of this part of my culture, my upbringing, the fabric of who I am. I miss the celebration, I miss the worship, I miss the legacy, I miss the history, I miss the connection, I miss the mothers of the church, I miss  youth ministry. But, partly because our churches are separated and partly because of my own fickleness, I always feel like I have to choose one side or the other. I hate having to do that just as much as I hate feeling like I have to pull teeth just to get some of my friends to consider coming to either church experience because it is beyond their comfort zone.

Last week as I watched all the commercials for the new MLK memorial in downtown DC, I’ve been aware of the fact that although we’ve come a long way in race relations since the days of Dr. King, sometimes I feel as though we’ve made little progress when it comes to churches. Why is this so?? I know that historically, “black” churches have been a pillar within the spiritual, social, and even political climate of the black community. “Black” churches were the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. Historically, “black” churches have always had social justice on their minds and have seen that as one of many threads of Christianity. And then there’s the difference in worship styles…and giving all of that up can be a very difficult thing. I believe there’s several other reasons, and although those reasons do have some historical and social weight, it’s sad that in 2011, Sunday morning is still “the most segregated hour in America.”

The reality is that racial reconciliation and diversity among churches is easy in theory. It’s easy to say we all want to be one and worship together but that would require us to share. Not just share things but share ideas and information and ways of doing things. Having experienced both sides, I can clearly see that there are things that both churches need from one another, which is why I believe God wants us to worship together. But how do we DO that? Every church obviously can’t satisfy everybody. So if we can’t form one church, how can we at least foster fellowship and friendship across racial lines? I do know of a couple of churches that I consider to be pretty diverse, and it’d be interesting to examine how they came to be so. I know that one is very intentional about it, one is just cool and attracts all kinds of people, and the other one, I’m not sure, I think they just preach the gospel and diverse people just come.

Sigh…so in the meantime I’m left trying to figure out ways that I can live in both worlds, and at least someday, somehow bring both worlds together. Well, at least I know I can look forward to heaven–a place where every nation, every tribe and every tongue WILL come together and worship the one true God. In the meantime, in light of all this, check out this trailer for a film I edited a couple years ago dealing with racial reconciliation in churches. Here’s the link: http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi2612265497/. Enjoy!

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3 responses

4 09 2011
June Wilson aka "JD"

Avril, thanks so much for sharing this. I can totally feel you on many points. I’ve experienced both church dynamics. I went to a predominantly white Bible college (of course we had a lot of multiculturism and diversity on the campus that was sort of insisted upon by the minority students but pretty much embraced by the student body at large) but I definitely got my share of “white” churches. And also attended an predominantly black church. So I know exactly what you mean when you say one has this and the other has that. In recently years I’ve abandoned the idea of attending the black traditional churches (long story) but on the other hand many of the white churches are lacking something that my soul deeply craves that was met in the black churches. It’s largely the worship experience but I believe even more things. With respect to the worship, I’ve experienced many different and various white worship services, spanish worship services, and black ones. I find almost all to be genuinely worshipping the Lord. It seems pure and from the heart. And I’m not saying that I can not worship God in all three. But there’s just something about the black church that I too miss. Deeply. However, the things that I dislike about black churches override that desire to go just to have that longing fulfilled. I’d much rather listen to church online or haul the family to a Calvary Chapel church, where we get good Word, good fellowship, diversity to an extent (depending on which one we attend), and even contemporary worship (I actually love Hillsong songs which a lot of Calvary Chapels use). But alas, it’s just not the same where I can stand and have my spirit and literally my soul moved and blessed in “our way.” And I think that’s the cultural aspect that you are saying can’t be pushed to the side, as it is our very essence and something we want to experience to its fullness. Man, I’mma have to PING you on this blog post. I apparently have a lot to say on the topic. But I’ll stop myself here before I turn this topic into a blog post. LOL. Thanks again for sharing. This really struck a chord with me and it was so cool seeing it voiced in the manner in which you expressed it.

4 09 2011
azuspeak

Thanks for your comments June! I feel you on practically everything you said. As much as I miss “black” church I know I wouldn’t get the same type of fellowship, teaching and reflection that I get now. This saddens me very much because I feel like I’m missing a piece of myself. What saddens me even more is that I’m not really sure what a solution could or should be. If my current church suddenly adopted a completely new style of worship that would be closer to what I’m used to, I wonder if I’d still want to go there because I don’t know if it would be that authentic. Like you, I love Hillsongs and I love hymns. It would be nice to even just see more people that look like me in church, but I believe that’s a process that takes time.

I used to work with a church in Atlanta that I feel was very diverse. Because I worked with the behind the scenes, I was able to see just how intentional the pastor and leadership team were about being inclusive of all cultures. And somehow I felt like there was a good balance of all experiences. I feel like churches like that are few and far between because they build themselves from scratch to be that way…That church was a new church plant with young, diverse, forward-thinking leaders who were also very aware of race issues. I could go on and on about this issue myself for days…

9 05 2012
Eric Redmond

Reblogged this on A Man from Issachar and commented:
Rebloging from Convergence:

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