Sunday, November 20, 2016

Landing

This morning, I walked into what is now likely to be our new church for the second time. I dropped the littlest ones off at the nursery without incident and Josh and I had a little time to rest quietly and just soak in the anticipation of spending time with other believers. This is definitely a first since we moved. Getting three little people to church on time while my husband is traveling, let alone early, is no easy feat.

An older white gentleman sat down next to us. He didn't leave that semi-awkward empty seat that people usually leave when they don't know you. He just sat down, stuck his hand out, introduced himself to both of us and asked me this question:

"How did you find our church?"

I answered him honestly, trusting that what I was seeing in his church would enable him to receive what I said without awkwardness. (Some white people panic when you use the word diversity. They just do.)

"Honestly, sir, I went to the website and clicked on leadership. I saw that you have a diverse team of leaders here and that's not easy to find."

He told me that he'd heard that before and that if that's what we were looking for, we'd find it here.

I don't doubt him. One look on stage shows me a black woman on drums, a diverse choir and a range of people of different backgrounds playing the instruments. A black pastor gets up to lead a time in prayer ministry and a white pastor gets up to share the word. As we pass the peace around us, we shake hands of people older than me and younger, children, black, white and latinx.

I watch the rows in front of me who are filled with hearing-impaired people who are worshiping through sign language, their voices quiet but their joy evident. They are led by a woman who is signing the words and songs of the service and clearly loves what she does. I didn't even know they had a hearing-impaired ministry but it starts a great conversation with my son.

My younger boys are with women of various backgrounds and children who look like them and their brother.

We could fit here.

Some might think that looking at the faces of a leadership team online is an irresponsible way to choose a church. Even racist.

But here's the deal.

When we adopted our sons, we made a choice. A conscious choice that we would not white-wash their world. That we would live in neighborhoods where they might make friends of multiple backgrounds. That they would not be the only black boys in their classes. That the churches we choose, especially as they grow and learn and begin to wrestle with what it means to be black boys with white parents in a racist America, those churches would have racial mirrors for them. Leaders, men and women, with voices of truth in their lives. Friends, boys and girls, who might look like them and their brother, who would wrestle through the chaos of growing up faithful in a world that may not understand that choice.

Many people look at denomination first. Or style of worship. Or the core set of beliefs. Or the type of children's ministry available. Or the mission statement. Or the location or stance on women in ministry or centrality of communion or...well, any number of pretty important issues.

For us, those things had to come second.

And you know what?

We don't want a diversity of leadership and congregation just for our boys. We want it for ourselves. To hear from people who are different from me: who didn't, in my case, grow up in a predominantly white, middle class, northeastern town. To hear from people of different ecumenical backgrounds than my husband and I were raised in. To value the incredibly beautiful diversity of God's church both in our every day lives and when we gather with the physical representation of that church each week.

So, yes.

We look first at that leadership page. And if the church at it's very core isn't reflecting what we hope to see in the larger congregation, we don't bother. We are a multiethnic family. This is a non-negotiable.

Will it mean that we might be in churches during the course of our lives that we don't 100% agree with.

YEP.

But since that has pretty much always been true of any church we've joined because my husband and I aren't the same exact person with the same exact beliefs, we've been there. Done that. And finding a community that loves God, loves others, strives for truth and justice and looks like our family is enough for us right now.

We don't need perfect theological alignment to dive in.

So, after almost five months of trial and error and visiting and praying, I think we may be landing.

And friends, it cannot come soon enough. This introvert is just about out of Sunday morning visitor small talk.

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