Well, my travel officially began with the National Multicultural Church Conference in Fort Worth, TX from July 31- August 3. I have to admit that this was the perfect first trip to kick off my journey as vice moderator. You may or may not remember that my congregation is located in Queens, NY. It’s the most diverse county in the country and the First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills is certainly a reflection of it. We are composed of several languages and cultures from all around the world and lack a racial/ethnic majority in our congregational demographics. When I look out into our congregation on a Sunday morning, I can’t help but think that I am looking out at the future of the United States sitting right in the pews!
It was exciting to be among people who are asking questions about the dynamics of multicultural, intercultural ministry. There were workshops about power and privilege, leadership shifts, young adults for whom plurality and diversity are already a reality, worship that honors unique experiences of the divine, and already existing models of ministry. The participants of the workshops were a reflection of diversity themselves: various denominations, ministers, lay leaders, and others all worked in teams to present each workshop. We didn’t hear from one voice, but many as we learned from the leaders as well as participants. This truly was a witness to living as a Church body.
But the best part of these conferences and gatherings is to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. My spirit was lifted as I spoke with people about the blessings and challenges of their ministries. Ministry…well, heeding God’s call in general…is never an easy task! I am inspired by the work that is being done throughout our Church. There are many in our midst who are using their hands, feet, and voices to form communities that welcome to all people. These communities are multifaceted and complex, calling those who participate to live into way of being that might be very different than what the world outside of their walls says is acceptable. I am equally inspired by people who are faced with challenges that seem daunting BUT they continue to do the hard work to move forward. After all, aren’t we all at times left wondering if we are on the “right” path (as if there was one!) or feeling as though we are on an island doing this kind of work without any others in sight?! It’s at those times that meeting people from across the country and around the world becomes critical to nourishing us for this work.
The conference theme was “Journeying and Awakening into God’s Diverse World” set on the backdrop of Luke’s narrative of the Road to Emmaus. As our first worship and keynoter reminded us, we journey first and then are awakened to what God has in store. Sometimes we have to take that first step and, like the men on the road away from Jerusalem, are met by Christ without even realizing it.
So, friends, what are the ways you and/or your church are journeying and awakening to God’s call for you?