The gifts of all God’s people
It’s been more than 50 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Montgomery Bus Boycott and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. Yet, it doesn’t take long to figure out that we still have lots of work to do. Any scroll through today’s news offers stories related to racial or cultural inequality.
It follows then that our synod’s new vision statement explicitly commits to growing and caring for whole and healthy leaders—which includes the promise to develop culturally-sensitive leaders. We stand ready to celebrate and lift up the gifts of all of God’s people and to learn together how to best reflect God’s beautiful creation in the body of Christ that is the NC Synod.
In collaboration with the synod’s director for evangelical mission, the synod’s African-Descent Strategy Team is providing opportunities to prepare our leaders for healthy intercultural and interracial interactions for the sake of the world. Since November 2018, seven “Developing Culturally-Sensitive Leaders” training days have been offered at different locations around the synod.
Several of our synod’s pastors share the impact of this training:
Pastor Jennifer Ginn, Cross & Crown, Matthews, was one of the training day presenters: “Studying the course material and co-leading a session brought me lots of new insights into white privilege. I live with advantages I never even think about. I also learned new information that I did not learn in school about persistent attempts throughout our country’s history to keep people of color from advancing. I was ashamed, but also energized to work in my congregation and community to support people of color and minority-owned businesses.”
Epiphany, Winston-Salem, hosted one of the trainings; Epiphany’s Pastor Russell Peek reflects: “It was helpful to have important and needed conversations around race and racism. I left the training feeling like this was a good step in the right direction. It didn’t solve all our problems nor did it offer an easy solution to the complexities of race and racism in our society. To be perfectly honest, there were moments that were uncomfortable, but I am thankful for the discomfort and trust those moments were the Spirit’s movement.”
Before hosting the event at Christ the King, Cary, Pastor Wolfgang Herz-Lane encouraged his staff and congregation to participate. He shares: “About ten of our staff and members attended because we saw this training as a necessary prerequisite for our vision of building an inclusive church where ‘all are welcome, no exceptions.’ Bold and deliberate inclusion…is one of our highest priorities… The training helps to prepare our people to not just say that we are a welcoming church, but to behave and live like one.”
Six more “Developing Culturally-Sensitive Leaders” training days are being offered in February, March, and April. All are welcome. Congregations are invited; NC Synod pastors and deacons are required. Thanks to mission support provided to the synod, there is no cost for the training and lunch is provided at each of the training days. Learn more and register!
Pastor Peek adds, “I continue to think about how I can be an agent of God’s reconciliation and justice….to think about my own ‘blind spots’ to racism so that I can continue to serve God’s people.”
Maybe if we all discover our “blind spots,” it won’t take another 50 years before Dr. King’s dream—“that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”—is realized. After all, isn’t that what Jesus commands us to do as well? You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)