Dismantling Racism through Pulpit Exchange and Fellowship Meal
Few people in any UMC congregation will say that they are racist. Yet at the same time not many people will say that they are free from biases including racial bias. People tend to gather together with those who look like alike, speak alike, eat alike or believe alike. It may be a natural thing. In and of itself, it is not wrong or harmful at all. But that is how we develop biases and why many of us remain biased unless enlightened otherwise.
Problems occur when a group of people starts developing their own value system based on their biases. Because human sinful nature encourages them to do the work at the expense of the value of other groups. In order to give meaning to themselves, take out meaning from others. In order to paint themselves good, paint others evil. In order to prove their value, devalue others. In the process of doing these works, bias gives birth to racism.
Churches have not been immune to this. Both as a victim and victimizer, the body of Christ has been suffering from racism more than any other entities in the world. As someone once said, Sunday is the most segregated day of a week. And the saying hits us even harder as we see more and more integration going on in the society, outside the four walls of the churches.
Leaving people where they naturally choose to be and expecting unnatural things to happen may not be the best strategy. Unfortunately, churches have been one of the bad examples to prove it.
Intentional action is needed in the place of natural response.
To this end, one of the simple and easy ministry opportunities we can offer to our congregations is pulpit exchange and fellowship meal.
Bethel Assemblies of God is a Hispanic congregation. Most of them are from Puerto Rico while Rev. Quintero is from Panama. Bethel AOG was looking for a space for worship and Pine Valley congregation has allowed them to use its sanctuary for worship on Sunday afternoons since late October this year.
Rev. Quintero was invited to preach at Pine Valley’s worship on November 7th. In response to that, Bethel AOG has come out to Pine Valley’s worship to make it a joint service. The worship service was richer than usual with more powerful praises and joyful voices. After church, the joint fellowship meal was also abundant with more diverse food.
We could see one another sisters and brothers in Christ as we were fed together spiritually in the sanctuary and physically in the fellowship hall.
I hope all who were there have been stirred up to see each other for who they truly are. God’s precious children. Because that will be the first big step to dismantle racism among us.
On December 5th, Rev. Barbara Hubbard of St. Julia AME Zion church will come to speak to Pine Valley congregation. She is planning on coming with some of her church members as well. I am looking forward to another time to taste small heaven with them.
Rev. Joseph Park
Pine Valley UMC