October 17, 2018
Q&A with Leroy Barber |
How can churches become more multicultural?
Leroy: It goes back to the question, “why aren’t we multicultural?” That has to do with relationships. That has to do with how we connect to someone who is different than us. I think examining those things first allows us to build into relationships for there to be multicultural expression. We just don’t know each other. So get to know folks first, and then build into a multicultural church.
How can we create relationship with people that are different from us?
Leroy: What I’ve learned is that authenticity is very important. We don’t ask any white person coming into our church to not be themselves. There is always the one cool white guy. And if he’s legitimately cool, great. But if not, he doesn’t need to pretend. But authenticity on both sides is very important, because that opens conversation.
We need to try to get to this place where church isn’t always about what you get from church. You’re going to church and trying to get fed. We’ve been thinking, “It needs to be about me when I walk in those doors.” We need to try to move past that place. This Sunday the message might not all be for you, and that needs to be ok. Sometimes the songs aren’t going to be what you like. You should embrace it and see if you can hear God in the midst of it.
It’s the balancing of accepting that everything is not going to be for you. It’s just not if you want a multicultural setting
It’s also important to remember that the dominate culture has been the dominate culture. I’m not even used to speaking up about what I really want—what really feeds me, or what I really believe. Because I’m a part of this culture and society where white has been the dominate culture, and so I don’t always speak up in an audience that is mixed. You need to create space for that, that is really important. I don’t think folks always realize that they don’t speak up in a setting that predominately white. Even when we’re trying to do it. You have to know that is true as well. Allowing your folks of color to speak if they want, or allowing for that to happen offline. I (I don’t know about everyone else) am not always sure I’m in a safe environment, so I don’t always speak up.
How do we practically practice justice for people that are different from us?
Leroy: It’s important to be a good neighbor. The idea that what my relationships look like as I’m a good neighbor, is huge. Where we live, we need to make decisions on where we live that make our life begin to encompass people that we might not necessarily know culturally. We need to begin to develop relationships with people cross-culturally, cross denominations and those types of things. And then, I think more specifically, relationships with people who are less resourced then we are. Vulnerable folks in the world. Out of that relational context, justice arises. If I’m in relationship with my neighbors who go to the same school as my kids, and I’m apart of the PTA and I’m involved in the school and helping to make the school better for my kids, it’s helping to make the school better for all of the kids. I think this type of idea makes justice much more practical.
If I know someone who is poor or less fortunate as far as economics is concerned, and I’m friends with that person then there is a natural understanding that I want to help. I want my friend to have what I have.
I think that is a big step towards making justice more practical and real.
Director, The Voices Project | Affiliate Professor, Kilns College
Leroy Barber is Director of the Voices Project, an initiative to nurture young leaders of color worldwide. He has dedicated more than 20 years to eradicating poverty, confronting homelessness, restoring local neighborhoods, healing racism. He is the the author of the book, Embrace.