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For The CRG Created For The CRG
The Multicultural Congregation

I’m having more conversations with congregations that characterize themselves as multicultural. For example, I met with a governing board of a Caucasian congregation that had recently welcomed 20 refugees from Ethiopia. A board member said, “We sing songs that are new to us.”

Another pastor called the Center for Congregations looking for resources related to talking about racial justice. I asked, “Is your congregation predominately African-American or mainly Caucasian?” She said, “We are multicultural. We are about 60% white, about 30% black, and we have others who are recent immigrants from Latin America.”

Embracing diversity
A multicultural congregation is typically racially diverse. Yet, the diversity also stretches beyond racial inclusivity. A multicultural congregation holds and seeks racial, cultural, class, generational, gender and other differences to be represented among its participants.

Those who study multicultural congregations note that when 20% percent of the participants represent the non-dominant group, the non-dominant group begins to transform the congregation in significant ways. The style of prayer changes. People learn facts they didn’t know before (“there are over 80 languages spoken in Ethiopia!). New friendships are made.

A rich congregational experience
A multicultural congregation includes a diverse range of people in attendance. More robustly, the congregation expresses its religious claims and commitments through the activities and practices of more than a single, dominant culture.

Many effective multicultural congregations become diverse because of unfolding circumstances, as opposed to deciding to become such a congregation. For example, a congregation may find itself located in a zip code with an influx of immigrants. Or a congregation might observe that the public-school district in which they reside includes students of a different race than most of its members.

Resources you can use
If you are addressing the challenges and opportunities of becoming a multicultural congregation your governing board might begin to deepen its consideration by reading and discussing some outside resources. I recommend these two – a blog titled Different Models for Multicultural Congregations and Ministries and the article Against the Current.

As your knowledge and expertise deepens, I recommend the web resource Striving Toward Multi-Ethnic Church to increase your capacity as a multicultural congregation.

For The CRG Created For The CRG
Talking About Racism

Many congregations are looking for resources to help them talk about racism. White congregations want to prepare for dialogue with their multi-cultural neighbors. They want to learn more about the historical roots of racism and how it has become ingrained through social and economic structures.

Among the many fine books available, there is one curriculum that stands out as practical, accessible, and free. White Privilege: Let’s Talk – a Resource for Transformational Dialogue is a free, downloadable curriculum from the United Church of Christ.

It is designed to engage participants in “safe, meaningful, substantive, and bold” conversations on race. The curriculum contains background reading, webinars, and a conversation guide.

To get a feel for the material, it may be helpful to watch one of the five accompanying webinars, such as Whiteness as the Norm. For congregations who want to delve more deeply into racial issues impacting communities of faith, take a look at https://thecrg.org/search/results?query=race.

media
Backs Against The Wall: The Howard Thurman Story
This hour-long film tells the life story of pastor and theologian Howard Thurman, a thought-leader in nonviolent resistance and founder of an integrated, interfaith congregation.
article
How to Have Helpful Conversations About Race in the Church: An Anti-Racism Resource
This 11-page guide offers a process and tools to engage in important conversations regarding race.
book
Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church
This resource uses theory and practice to help congregations understand the dynamics of culture and how it relates to their ministry, extending knowledge that will help create transformation.
web resource
White Privilege: Let's Talk - A Resource for Transformational Dialogue
The United Church of Christ offers a free, downloadable curriculum for White faith communities wishing to “engage in safe, meaningful, substantive, and bold conversations on race” and privilege.
web resource
Ethnic Specific and Multicultural Ministries
This website provided by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), offers consultations, programs, and resources, which helps the ministry team assist the denominations, synods, congregations, agencies, and institutions in becoming more culturally diverse and anti-racist as they strive for full partnership and participation of people of African Descent (African American, African National, Afro Caribbean, Black), Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Latinos in the life of the ELCA.
organization
MeckMin
This organization provides resources, including three short documentaries, for starting conversations within your congregation about discriminatory language against people of non-majority races, religions, sexual orientations, and socio-economic levels.
organization
Mosaix Global Network
This organization provides resources and membership for congregations interested in establishing healthy multi-ethnic communities.
book
Becoming a Multicultural Church
This book details how one church went from being a traditional congregation to becoming a larger, multi-cultural church.
book
God's Tapestry: Understanding and Celebrating Differences
This book is meant for individuals and congregational leaders invested in understanding racial-ethnic differences, and is both practical and theological in its approach.
media
Racial Diversity in a Changing Harlem Congregation
This video by PBS details the changes and growth of First Corinthian Church in Harlem, New York.
book
Reaching People Under 30 while Keeping People Over 60: Creating Community Across Generations
This book speaks to the intergenerational gap and offers suggestions for bridging divides using the biblical example of Jesus and Paul, who invited all to participate.
About the Contributor
Contributor
Kate White

Kate is the associate director for resources at the Center for Congregations. She manages educational resources and works to get the best resources into the hands of congregations.

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