Sunday, February 07, 2016

Black History & White Congregations

When our son Isaac was perhaps nine or ten years old one of his friends from school was the only black child in his class. He was at our house regularly after school because he shared Ike's passion for basketball and we had a net in the driveway. Sometimes I would arrive home from work and they would still be shooting hoops, so I would join them. Isaac would shout out "Dad!" as he looked for a pass, and soon this lad did the same. I found this quite amusing, but it become a regular part of our pickup games. I had no idea what his father looked like yet I don't think there would have been much confusion about who was actually his parent if we stood together.

This morning I will remind the Bridge St. congregation that we are a pasty lot, as are most United Church congregations. Still, it is important for us to acknowledge Black History Month, including our United Church history. We did have a black moderator, The Right Reverend Dr. Wilbur Howard, who was ordained in 1941. Yet it wasn't until 1965 that he received a call to a congregation, having worked for the denomination for nearly a quarter century before that opportunity came.

Just recently Parkdale United Church, a congregation whose lead minister, the Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey, is black had it's building defaced with racist graffiti including the deeply offensive N-word.  Anthony responded with dignity saying this about the vandals:

They attempted to sow hatred and division, and we are responding with love and justice and reconciliation. I would take them to lunch and have a conversation about what has brought them to believe the way they do, and offer them a different perspective about how we ought to treat each other and care for each other.

Is it worthwhile for United Church congregations to acknowledge Black History Month in worship? Have we learned much about inclusivity generally as the people of Christ through the years? How might we become more diverse?

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