On Sunday, we were joined by Chris Logan, a local pastor at Keystone UMC in Waldo. We had a great discussion about why Sunday mornings at 11am are still one of the most segregated hours in America. Unfortunately, there were some technical difficulties so we are unable to share the audio with you, but we do have the next best thing – Chris’ transcript. I hope Chris’ words impact you as much as it did us on Sunday night, and be sure to check out an audio interview we did with Chris shortly after the Sunday’s gathering. You can listen here.
We have gathered around a challenge that Dr. Martin Luther King posed to the American church. That challenge in context was delivered in a speech entitled “Remaining Awake Through the Great Revolution.” And the exhortation came second a series of points he was making. I’ll read a portion of what he was saying in context:
“I must say this morning that racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame.
It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle—the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic. And I can see nothing more urgent than for America to work passionately and unrelentingly—to get rid of the disease of racism.
Something positive must be done. Everyone must share in the guilt as individuals and as institutions. The government must certainly share the guilt; individuals must share the guilt; even the church must share the guilt.
We must face the sad fact that at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning when we stand to sing “In Christ there is no East or West,” we stand in the most segregated hour of America.”
I must say that this is a valiant charge. I must say that the courage The Open Table has taken to have this discussion is encouraging. Can you imagine if the church were the only place that sufficiently and consistently broke through cultural barriers? Can you imagine the kind of witness that would have to the world? So why hasn’t it happened?
To help us discern this, I’d like to offer you my history of growing up in the church. I was born into Renaissance Baptist Church on the East Side of Detroit. It took us over 35 minutes to get to church from our home but it was worth it. I was surrounded by positive influences of my own race. We came together to form an organization and a style of worship that was altogether our own. The primary instrument was the Hammond B3 organ. The second most important instrument was the tambourine And the choir would march down the center aisle behind the pastors singing, “Walk in the light, beautiful light, come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright. Shine all around us by day and by night. Jesus, the light of the world.”
We would pass the peace it wasn’t called that. It was extending the right hand of fellowship. My grandfather and the rest of the deacons led devotion. And just before the sermon was the sermonic prelude. This was the organists improvised solo. I can’t quite describe it with words how the music in those five minutes made us feel, the emotions that they stirred in the congregation, you just had to have been there. Though he didn’t use any words the congregation would be roused to respond with Amen! And Hallelujah! And there was even a woman in the back of the church that would spontaneously scream.
And I loved it. And I still love it now. After going to a private school and observing all kinds of media that communicated that white culture was normal, church was the only place where black people set the bar. Where my people were revered as pastors and deacons, where we celebrated black history month every Sunday. Where we didn’t have to wear a mask to fit in but we could truly come as we were.
One of the members of the congregations I serve recently visited a black church and her question was no longer how do we create a multicultural church, it was rather why would I ever serve a white church! And that it is the beginning of a real substantive conversation on the matter.
We gather this evening around the question of the most segregated hour in America – which is Sunday morning in church. But before we leap into how to “fix” this problem, I wonder if we can take a little time to see how God used a bad situation to bring wholeness to communities.
I know that seems weird, but I can’t imagine another place where black people are at the center of authority, culture, and practice than in the black church. And I’m sure the same could be found in other ethnicities and cultures. Before a white church seriously considers actively reaching out to other non-majority cultures they must ask if they can affirm the value of these culture better than in the black church?
There’s a deeper question that must be considered as well. There was a church where a woman began to fall in love with a growing population of immigrants from a certain country. She realized they didn’t have a place to worship so she invited them to her church Soon this one immigrant family grew to be over 200 worshippers. They formed their own choir and in many senses changed the way the existing congregation did its ministry.
But soon the changes became unbearable. The congregation did everything its power to get rid of the immigrant population to leave. Finally, the immigrants began worshipping in another building.
There is something deep within all of us that likes routine and stability. But there is something else that springs up deep within white culture that began centuries ago. It is colonization. Manifest destiny. A desire to civilize the barbarian To take territory that other cultures own. After spending years in ministry at majority white congregations I am not convinced that the colonizing gene has not lost its influence. The way I know this is because they refuse to bend to the cultural norms and attitudes of the group of people they want to reach.
The truth is that we cannot do it. The task set before us is impossible. But this actually good news. I’m afraid that much of Christianity has succumbed to a neo-Pelagianism. Theologians know that Pelagianism is being to reach the highest ideals of spiritual life apart from God’s help. But it is precisely when we reach these impasses that grace shows us that we can’t do it on our own.
The scriptures show us what happens when the church opens itself up to the possibility of God’s help in Acts. It reads:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][a] as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues (languages)!”
The miracle was not the speaking, the miracle was in the understanding. There is a place deep inside each of us that knows we are all one. That knows there is no difference between us. We experience our unity in simplicity but in a paradox – because unity appears in diverse manifestations. But our unity is not threatened by our diversity. So what I believe the Spirit does is helps us to understand our collective self. If there are people among us who feel the need to holler and scream, you are not threatened, because they are only a diverse expression of who you are. If someone wants to employ another music style in worship, no one is threated, because it is only a diverse desire of our own desire.
Only the Spirit is able to do things The Christ nature, the universal consciousness, navigates this realm rather easily. That’s why our practical advice begins with prayer. We need to deepen our prayer life. I heard that not too long ago you had a mystic give advice on deepening your prayer life. We need to continue to follow these pointings. Prayer is the number 1 why to give the Spirit room to change hearts.
The second piece of advice is to get to know the diverse expressions of ourselves as they appear. Where are black people worshipping? Where are they expressing themselves artistically? What are their deepest dreams and fears?
What if 80% of The Table’s congregants committed to visiting black owned business and doing 1-on-1’s with businesses of other cultures. What if you committed to holding focus groups east of Troost to see the kind of worshipping community they need and desire in their own neighborhood. This serves two purposes: You become aware of the intricacies of the diversity and you get used to the work it takes to get to know other cultures.
The last thing is to trust the Spirit. Don’t fall into old patterns that say this is how our leadership functions, or this is how we do music in this space. You must be courageous enough to trust that which the Spirit is leading us to.
Unity is like the skin that we are in. Our skin is the largest organ in our body. It holds all of our functions and our organs together while they do their job. Our skin is our covering. It keeps our individual components with their independent functions moving together as the whole body moves together.
The circulatory system could be moving up and down and round and round, and the kidneys can be throwing off waste, and the nose can be smelling and the fingers can be touching. And things like the appendix and the tonsils can just be there.
With no apparent purpose, but still in the body, still moving toward a common goal.
The skin is made up of three layers – the outer layer made up of the epidermis, translucent and colorless. It allows light to pass through it and it’s kind of like frosted glass. The epidermis doesn’t contain any blood vessels but it gets oxygen and its nutrients from the deeper layers of the skin.
Our outer selves are transparent. We are all the same. At first contact.
The second layer of our skin is the dermis. It’s where our pigment, and hair roots, and our sweat glands lie. That lies below the epidermis and that is where we are different. And though we are different, our difference lies below our sameness. You see our sameness is higher than our otherness.
And the layer below the dermis is the subcutaneous fat. And subcutaneous fat ties the muscles and bones together. It has the ability to connect things. The whole skin structure is held to the body by subcutaneous fat. Because the skin is designed to be connected. Tell your neighbor I’m designed to be connected to you.
The attachment though it was designed to keep the upper layers connected to the body is actually quite loose so the skin can move freely. As you get older in life it gets freer and freer.
Skin! Multi-layered, multi-dimensional, yet it is the skin that we are in. If our skin were not in place we would bleed out. All of our stuff would fall out on the ground.
Our skin is our first line of defense. It lets us know when the atmosphere is too hot or too cold. It is there to warm us, it keeps us cool, it registers pain, it sends a signal to the brain that says “help,” when somebody steps on your foot.
It doesn’t prefer or cater to any particular part of the body. It covers the face and the feet. The nose and the butt. Skin doesn’t care. We care, and pretty up the part we want people to see. It’s just there because it’s doing it’s job. It covers all of our parts and praise God the parts we would rather not.
It shifts and changes with growth. It shift and changes with growth and with age. Every seven years our cellular self replaces itself completely.
It knows how to stretch to accommodate a new baby. And after the baby is delivered is comfortable enough to contract to where it was before.
It hangs in there, even when it’s doing more hanging than it’s doing anything else. It hangs, because it’s not there for pretty, it’s there for purpose. It hangs! It holds on.
Unity is like that. Our diversity is held together by our unity. Our unity of purpose. Beloved, individuality and covenant need to kiss each other.
We need skin. Without it we would spin off in so many directions, that individuality would be a great loss and community would be impossible.
The desire for unity makes us think through how we treat each other. And it’s about time we think through how we treat each other. Unity makes us pay attention to where the greatest need is and makes us send help to that need. Unity is colorless, genderless, but it also respects and acknowledge our diversity. It is not so rigid that it limits our creativity.
Unity is the largest organ of the body of Christ. Room for new babies, yet it holds the body with wisdom and experience.
May we be healed to the point that we know the freedom and the cohesiveness that Jesus prayed for years ago. And by this would the entire world come to know our God of healing and peace. God bless is you my prayer.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]