Sunday, March 28, 2010

Taste and See

I can still remember it; The day I walked into Charity Mission International Church, a predominantly black inner-city church in Richmond and was promptly called out, as one of three white people in the room, and asked to come up onstage and help sing. Not only was this my first time as a minority in a church setting, but it was also my first time being called out in the middle of a church service. It was also the first day in my journey of understanding multiethnicity and it's part in worship, the church and the gospel itself.

That was 10 years ago. I ended up going up on that stage, mostly out of sheer fear and paralysis and when the invitation was extended to me at the end of the service to come to worship practice on Thursday, I found myself accepting. For two years after that, I was a part of that church. I learned to sing gospel music, to keyboard, to project from my gut and how to react appropriately to someone who might shout out the words "you better sang, girl" in the middle of a solo. (FYI, it means you're doing a great job and you better not stop! I learned that one the hard way.) Beyond all that, I learned to actually examine myself, to learn what I bring to the table in the great ethnic debate, to understand that I have beauty in my culture and that the more we keep segregated in the church, the greater damage we are doing to our own understanding of God and to the picture of God that people receive outside of the church through their observation of us.

The journey continued after coming on staff with IV both in my personal understanding and my professional growth. I know my students at UR got sick of me bringing it up. Questions about being more welcoming, tailoring our music to be more inclusive to people who didn't just grow up singing Chris Tomlin songs, getting involved with issues on campus that show we care about issues of justice. After years of attending a predominantly white upper-middle class church, I was privileged and excited to be a part of a church plant in the inner-city neighborhood we lived in and, specifically, to help be a part of the worship. Only one short year after it really came together, we found ourselves on the way to NC, away from that community and back into church-hunting mode.

Now, I feel like I'm at a hard point. I feel like I have tasted and seen how good it can be. How beautiful it is to worship with people from different backgrounds, who look and sound different from one another and who focus on different aspects of God's character. I have been enriched by those differences, challenged by them and now I feel like I can never go back. Something just feels...well, missing, when I am not in diverse church settings.

This past week I had the opportunity to speak to a group of students at an HBCU in Raleigh. For those who don't know, an HBCU is an Historically Black College or University. This particular group asked me to come and speak about Multiethnic worship. So, at the point I'm at, where I'm missing my worshiping community in Richmond and anxiously anticipating the multiethnic experience of Rockbridge, it was like a breath of fresh air. Being able to share my journey, to hear the stories of these students, and to understand what it was like for them to enter the predominantly white world of IV was such a gift. And it got me thinking about next year. About what my role will potentially be with IV. In talking to my supervisors, it seems like there's not one clear place where I am needed, you know, really needed. Sure, there is a school, UNC, that I can work at and I'm sure they'd be glad to have me, but do my gifts really serve them well, do my passions really match up with what they need? Is there some other, creative way that I can continue to grow in my multiethnic journey, some way to be a part of God's work at HBCU's in the area? Or am I meant to head to UNC next fall and continue the journey by pushing students to think about it there?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I am thankful for the refreshment and reminder of this past Tuesday. I am thankful for the St. Aug's students and their vulnerability to share their journeys with a random white girl they'd never met. And I'm anxious to hear from God about where he wants me next to move in this journey. It's never an easy one, but after you have tasted and seen something so good, it's impossible to settle for less.

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