In a current cultural climate fraught with racial tension and division, BIC pastor Josh Crain shares his insights and experience reaching across the divide to bring his community closer together.
Here at The Meeting House, we are convinced that the Church has a critical role to play in the ongoing racial divide within the United States. Over the past two years, we have spent time thinking through what this means for us and what steps we might take to begin bridging this divide. While we don’t have an ultimate solution for this very complicated cultural problem, we are learning a few lessons along the way:
Be humble. Our church is more than 100 years old, started by white Protestant farmers. We reside in a community where more than 90 percent of its population is Caucasian. As a white man living and serving in this context, I realized long ago that I will never fully understand the challenges of being black in the United States. If I hope to be a positive force for racial progress, I must begin with a willingness to listen and to be changed by the stories and experiences of others.
Learn from others. It’s important for us to learn from churches who are already making progress in areas of race. And I am so thankful for the resources we have within the BIC. People like Hank Johnson and Woody Dalton of Harrisburg (Pa.) BIC have been incredibly helpful as I’ve asked questions and sought wisdom in the area of racial justice.
Use your platform. We have invited several black pastors to address our community over the past couple of years and are committed to doing this with greater frequency in the future. For those of us in leadership: the individuals we invite to speak in our congregations challenges and shapes the way our congregations think about issues like racial justice.
Collaborate. Because of some relationships we’ve built over the last year, The Meeting House was recently asked to join Bethel AME, a historic black church here in Carlisle, for an afternoon of breaking bread together (well, technically, eating barbecue) and worshipping with one another. And it was a great time of fellowship together. We learned from them. We listened to their stories, and they listened to ours. We celebrated together.
At The Meeting House, we’re still figuring this out. We realize we don’t have all the answers and still have a long way to go. But I’m convinced the gospel of Jesus compels us to keep working toward racial justice in our community.
Adapted from “Bridge Builders: BIC pastors crossing racial divides” for BIC U.S.’ August 2016 Connect newsletter.