Promoting multiculturalism

Mission: Bridgeway Community Church, a diverse congregation, led a delegation to South Africa last month to promote racial reconciliation.

August 06, 2004|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Sunday mornings are often referred to as the most segregated time of the week. That's because most people attend church with people of the same racial and cultural background.

But it shouldn't be that way, says the Rev. David A. Anderson, pastor of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, a multicultural congregation with more than 2,000 people attending services at Smith Theatre on the Howard Community College campus.

"Multicultural churches should not be the exception," said Anderson. "They should be the norm, but right now, unicultural churches are the norm."

Anderson, who recently wrote his second book, Multicultural Ministry: Finding Your Church's Unique Rhythm, led a delegation of 21 "partners" of Bridgeway to South Africa last month to promote racial reconciliation and multicultural leadership in the 10-year wake of the end of apartheid and to give hope to South Africans suffering from HIV and AIDS.

The trip stemmed from Bridgeway's theme for this year - "Reach up, down, in, out, over, back, forth."

Bridgeway uses the word partners instead of members to describe people who attend services regularly and participate in ministries at the church.

Anderson's first book, Letters Across the Divide: Two Friends Explore Racism, Friendship and Faith, chronicles the friendship of Anderson, a black pastor, and his friend, Brent Zuercher, a white businessman in Chicago.

As for the two-week South Africa trip that began July 1, the delegation traveled to several cities, including Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban.

Delegation members talked with pastors and church leaders and spent time with government workers, teachers, postal workers and police officers.

Anderson said his delegation promoted racial reconciliation and multicultural leadership through conferences that stressed three key components: vision, biblical values and vehicles to achieve the goal.

"Really, the whole Bible [talks about this]," he said, explaining that the Great Commission is a charge to win all nationalities to Christ. "It's God's vision that we be reconciled to one another."

Anderson added that those working toward racial reconciliation and multicultural leadership must have a "vision" for their goals. "You have to be able to see it," he said.

One way, he said, would be to use Bridgeway, a congregation of African-Americans, Caucasians, Latinos and Asians, as a model.

Anderson explained that there must be "vehicles to get you from point A to point B."

"Through the BridgeLeader Network [a nonprofit organizational arm of the church], we work on strategies to help [people, churches and organizations]," he said. "It all begins with relationships. ... If you become more sensitive, God begins to do more."

In South Africa, Anderson said, he noticed that a white police officer had become more sensitive to the plight of black citizens after he realized that his government's training had wrongly influenced him.

Angel Cartagena, who also went to South Africa, said he noticed a sincerity among South Africans in the effort to bridge the gap between races.

Cartagena said he believed the delegation planted a lot of "seeds" for growth toward racial reconciliation.

Tracey Tiernan brought her guitar on the mission and said it served as a "great connector." She used it to play songs at the bedsides of those suffering from AIDS and prayed with them.

Anne Smith and her husband, Shaun, who are gospel rappers, had opportunities to use their gifts during a funeral.

"They were just so receptive to hearing God's word," said Anne Smith, who is Anderson's executive assistant.

She added: "We left them with tools to get the ball rolling, and we'll follow up."

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