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A View from Here

Exploring Faith and CommunityMacalester Plymouth United Church

July 2, 2020

Rev. Adam Blons

During one of my first church interviews, I learned about a partnership between a white suburban congregation and an urban African American congregation. The partnership started with a shared Bible study in people’s homes. From there it grew to pulpit exchanges, choir swapping, shared service and occasional joint worship services. This made a big impression on me. 

Since George Floyd’s murder, I have heard some in our congregation hoping we might create the same kind of partnership. While I hope that one day, all of our church experiences will be multicultural, I am now much more cautious about creating a church-to-church partnership. 

Why? I have heard from colleagues who have actually had these partnerships that they did not start with an invitation to be sister churches. Instead, they started with individuals, often pastors, connecting personally. They were just neighbors or worked together on community projects.  There was no program or expectation of any formal relationship. Rather than creating a partnership to have more relationships with people of color, these partnerships grew out of authentic relationships people already had. One colleague shared this quote from a Black minister who asked about starting church partnerships, “Ask yourself, who are you doing this for? Does this primarily benefit the Black church or you? Does it make more uncompensated work for Black people? Get clear on your motives before moving forward.”  

I know this idea comes from a place of wanting less cultural isolation and more authentic relationships with people of color. I want those things, too. But rather than trying to start a formal partnership as a church, we might start by noticing the multi-racial spaces we already have and showing up there. Our work with Isaiah and Interfaith Action are two multicultural spaces our church has. Church members volunteer at Hallie Q. Brown and Loaves and Fishes, both multicultural spaces. Your child’s or grandchild’s school might be another multicultural space already accessible to you. There may be others that you are not seeing as well. Meanwhile, we need to clarify our motivations, hone our intercultural sensitivity, and deconstruct our assumptions so that we are open to real relationships.  Real relationships. That is what I want. That is what racial justice will be built upon. And that is what Jesus calls us to. Love your neighbor.