What makes a congregation multi-cultural?
Sometimes, I feel like if I just show up to a church, they consider that a multi-cultural service.
Or the church could be predominantly white and have a few black members, and that would be labeled as multi-cultural.
Or the church could be fairly even between the whites and blacks. But wouldn’t that be a more “bi”-cultural congregation rather than a multi-cultural?
My seminary boasted that they are diverse and are welcoming to all cultures, but as a minority, I felt it was easier said than actually practiced.
I think Hawaii has one of the best examples of a multi-cultural congregation. Our whole state is a melting pot of ethnicities and culture.
For Thanksgiving, we’ll have sushi along with kimchee and turkey, and no one would think twice about it being odd.
The more I think and ponder about the future, the more I want to try serving in a diverse and multi-cultural church, which is why hopefully when I am commissioned to a church, I would not be sent to a Korean church. As multi-cultural Korean churches want to be, it always attracts a huge number of Korean-Americans and therefore “scares” away many non-Koreans.
My ordination paper asked me a question about a multi-cultural church. I read my answer (down below) and I don’t know if I completely agree with it anymore and not only that, it kind of sounds too “Mickey Mouse” in a way. Oh well. There’s nothing to do about it now. The papers are probably being read and marked down. (This waiting period to see if my papers are approved so that I can go to get interviewed is nerve-racking.)
The basic needs of humans are universal and transcend all cultures. Humans are
wired for relationships, we are wired to love God and to love one another. I strongly feel that if we provide a place where people come to love God and through the Spirit of God, begin to love one another, the differences in our cultures would not matter.
I live in Hawaii where we are truly a melting pot. But the interesting thing is, we embrace the “Hawaiian” culture, which is a mixture of many cultures like Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to name a few. It is natural for people who live in Hawaii to light fireworks to usher in the New Year (Asian custom). Even if the people are not Asians, they embrace this tradition because it is part of the Hawaii culture. McDonalds in Hawaii serve rice.
I sort of look at the multi-cultural church in this way. Instead of trying to embrace all different cultures, which always leads to some groups feeling excluded, we get people to embrace the culture of Christianity. We get the people to embrace the two fundamental elements of being human: Loving God and loving neighbors. By seeking to pursue those two fundamental things, I feel that everything will fall into place. Instead of the church trying to conform and meet the needs of people and their different cultures, have the people conform to the tradition of the church.
I realize that this is an ideal and may be hard to actually put into practice. We will always face the challenge of a group feeling excluded. Some tension will always exist when there are many diverse cultures gathered together. But culture should not separate or divide us. We should celebrate our differences yet bring them together in a melting pot.
I think the one big joy of a multi-cultural church is seeing a diverse body coming as one to worship our one God in one spirit.