Hobart Baptist has, I sense, elements of being both multiracial and multicultural. In our 10am Sunday morning service we endeavour to acknowledge our diversity, yet within the framework of a particular culture that has in many ways been part of HBC for many years. By contrast our 11.45am Karen service and our 2pm Church With No Wall service, and the Filipino Mabuhay Christ Homes, are culturally different and yet distinct in their own ways. Each of our congregations have their own culture, language and way of going about being church. Our mid-week home groups and youth groups are equally different and distinct from each other.
This is an aspect of our life together I believe God is pleased about.
In the final book of the Bible, John’s Revelation, we are given a glimpse of a magnificent choir gathered around God’s throne in worship. The choir, made up of people from “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9), reflects something of God’s heart for his people. The choir worships in superb unity whilst its diversity is noted and celebrated.
A church that reflects this unity and diversity brings what is not only desirable in a church, but mirrors an essential aspect of God’s ultimate desire for his people. It helps us appreciate the multicultural church is more than a melting pot where people lose their uniqueness, but a church where people are encouraged to maintain, embrace, and respect their cultural identities.
But, it is more difficult being multiracial than mono-cultural. In a multicultural church growth is slower because there are many ways in which people think and act making change and growth a greater challenge. In a multicultural church it is easier to hurt another’s feelings or be hurt yourself because of miscommunication. Communication is complicated when you all speak the same language within the same culture; it is even more so when you cross cultures and languages.
So there we were yesterday at another of our combined services, and I believe it pleases God that we have accepted the challenge and made the effort to be the church we are called to be. We still have much to learn, but I’m convinced we are on the right track. As we met together and shared a meal, we were all encouraged to keep working at what it means for us to be both a multiracial and a multicultural church.
How about you? Do you find yourself in culturally diverse situations at work, at church or when you are out and about? How do you go about embracing multiculturalism?
Stephen L Baxter