New neighbors have arrived

December 22, 2011

I noticed something was changing as I handed out candy on Halloween. By my informal observation, 80 percent of my trick-or-treaters were NOT Caucasian.

I live in Rosemount. Most people, upon hearing where I live, would expect the opposite . . . that 80 percent of my neighbors are Caucasian. I knew that the block I lived on was fairly diverse in terms of age and ethnicity—which is one of the reasons I chose it. Even I was somewhat surprised when I reflected on the neighbors I had shared candy with that day. It seems that the whole world is right in my neighborhood.

Reach new people is one of our conference ministry imperatives. Dr. Lovett Weems of the Lewis Center for Leadership has said that reaching new people entails reaching younger people and more diverse people—because that is who makes up our world.

Many of our communities are changing, and it is predicted that by 2050, the United States as a whole will not have a majority ethnic group. The land of immigrants will truly reflect our many nations of origin.

The richness of diversity

The Minnesota Annual Conference has Kaleidoscope Institute to help us develop competent leaders for a diverse, changing world. In October, they trained over 50 leaders from the Board of Ordained Ministry, Common Table, and Cabinet in their foundational courses.

We’ve also received a grant from the General Commission on Religion and Race to take this training to our congregations. We are looking for 10 congregations who are interested in learning how to better engage with their community, to embrace diversity in all its forms, and understand how the richness of the varieties of cultures can be a gift to our congregations—and in fact is what the kingdom of God looks like at its fullest. You can explore more about this intentional process for congregations by attending an orientation session on Feb. 11. Details can be found on the conference web site.

Opening hearts, minds, and doors

We have made multicultural competency one of our priorities as an annual conference because we believe it is a key skill for our time. I’ve noticed in our conference history how frequently a new church was started by a new immigrant group offering worship in the language and culture of that people. It was often a refuge, a taste of home for new people in a strange land.

Over time, as the newcomers raised new generations, the children did not speak the native language. New immigrants from a different land settled into the community. But the church kept speaking the old language, not adapting to the new times. Many of those churches closed, having served well one generation but not able to connect to a different culture.

Being a mono-cultural church is not a long term strategy for growth or vitality. We will keep starting new churches for new people because it is important to meet people where they are. We also hope that our existing churches will make the commitment to keep opening their hearts, minds and doors to new people of different generations or backgrounds, and that we will discover that church at its best looks like our own neighborhoods.

In my neighborhood that means the church will be Asian, Hmong, African-American, African, Norwegian, German, Irish, young, old, single, married, and most everything in between. It is a beautiful, diverse, changing world.

Cindy Gregorson is director of ministry for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058