On diversity and church – a Christian view. Graham’s blog

One of most valuable attributes of a local church congregation is being a diverse community.At a social level this provides mixed human interaction and caring in an increasingly isolated and compartmentalised society. Old and young mixing together and so able to enjoy vitality, friendships and new perspectives. The connections and support mechanisms churches can offer that foster wellbeing in the wider community.

But many local congregations have lost this diversity of community, small aging congregations proliferate and are declining; new churches of students and young adults pop up. Yet although geographically close these aging and youthful groups do not interact, because the new gathering is suspicious of the inertia of the older and the older perceives the newer as shallow and gimmicky.

Now diversity follows another factor – that of culture and race. Once again mono-cultural churches spring up, playing an important role in fostering a shared story of culture, community and Christ. My experience is that over 2 or 3 generations these churches will diversify as the culture and story of that church becomes more complex and varied itself.

Some churches experience and welcome diversity in one congregation, Moortown Baptist Church being one. This is a blessing to us. Like every blessing it brings joy, opportunity and responsibility. We would do well to reflect upon this diversity. Is this simply co-existence (different groups in the same space but not relating deeply)? Is this one host culture welcoming others as the guests or becoming equal collaborators? I suggest tentatively, that many of us embrace diversity when it is the other we are serving and giving to but might be disconcerted or unprepared for mutual relationships where we receive as much as we give.

I have a sense that as we grow together as different cultures, ages, backgrounds, we can get stuck on relationships of deference on the one hand or strict judgement but not get further. Deference meaning that we excuse the other because are not able to challenge and engage; and judgement bringing harshness because we lack understanding and empathy.

We can grow through this not by assuming coming together is automatic, nor by seeking an artificial conformity but by discovering a deeper and mutual appreciation.

Age and culture/race are easy examples to give but this also applies to gender, class, education, sexual orientation, disability…

And what of the Christian view? Many Christians have followed exciting and challenging journeys in diversity. Not by finding quick ready-made answers but by finding time and time again that as God is three in one, there is something profoundly mysteriously and wonderfully of God when diversity intertwines.

As Christians we also appreciate that Christ was God among us and humble that we learn to be together following the way Jesus Christ lived himself.

So we come full circle. The church is a special place and community in a divided world not primarily because that is the way we choose it, or because we are just nice together, or because we have a ready-made infrastructure but basically because this is how God is and how God works among us. A precious gift to be nurtured indeed.


Graham Brownlee, October 2018


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