Reflecting on multiculturalism in the body of Christ is refreshing to the soul and satisfying to the spirit. It ignites imagery of harmony in the body of Christ where different parts perform crucial but unique functions to ensure a healthy functioning church. As the Bible says in 1st Corinthians chapter 12: 12-13, so it is with the body of Christ, \”Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free\” (ESV).
The unique parts of the body signal multiculturalism where different people perform various roles in the church irrespective of where they come from, how they look like or sound like. Everyone is welcome to use and develop their spiritual gifts unhindered by status, ethnicity or accent. In doing so, we are making disciples of all nations and unifying the different parts of the body. Yet, thanks to our human condition, reality often diverges significantly from the ideal. At Grapeview Free Methodist Church, we feel blessed because the gap between ideal and reality is insignificant.
Since I arrived in the fall of 2014, I have observed some qualitative unique virtues about our church. Welcoming new entrants, especially visible minorities from diverse backgrounds, not only to worship but join and lead worship, minister to the toddlers, help in providing snacks and occasional hot meals, occupy leadership positions and share the word with the congregation have never been a source of conflict. Such efforts are genuinely encouraged and supported. Our senior members who have been in leadership for decades have never felt threatened by the presence and growth of minorities in the church. In fact, the majority of our governing board members are minorities who, like everyone else, continue to prioritize the church\’s health and avoid using their position to promote ethnocentric tendencies that often cause separation in the body.
Grapeview Church\’s uniqueness has more to do with the extent of acceptance and practice than the mere presence of these qualities. Everyone seems to possess a fundamental and unwavering commitment to the idea that a family-oriented approach to church organization is the only game in town. Just like other immigrants who have been welcomed into the Grapeview family, my family have felt welcomed, appreciated and loved since we arrived. The attention, awareness and responsiveness to diversity and inclusion and multicultural sensitivity have enabled a healthy relationship among all members.
From the Fall of 2017 to the Summer of 2018, Grapeview church went through a transition and came out even stronger. By God\’s grace, we were able to hold on to all of our members and welcomed even more! Not even the scourge of Covid-19 and its attendant restrictive albeit protective policies from different levels of government have succeeded in breaking our resolve. We are most grateful to God for these blessings.
While we have our imperfections, the bonds of family, fellowship, love and dedication to the church\’s health is entrenched and formidable that it is hard to see how David-looking imperfections can topple our Goliath-like accomplishments (in this analogy, God is with Goliath). We thank God for how far he has brought us.
A healthy multicultural church community is not naturally occurring. It requires conscious effort at being fully aware that we are all unique parts of the body and our various contributions are necessary for the body to function effectively. Like in all human relations, careful nurturing and intentionality are required to attain the best social outcomes. Our predecessors deserve commendation for establishing the foundations of love, unity, others centeredness on which later generations have become path-dependent.
All congregations across Canada must be ready to get multicultural, even if there are no \”others\” in your congregation today. In a globalized world and a multicultural nation like Canada, it\’s a matter of time that our openness to welcoming others into our Christian fold will be required.
By Peter Sekyere.
Peter and his wife Nana Ama, with their two young girls, are actively involved in ministry and leadership at Grapeview Church, St Catharines, Ontario. Originally from Ghana, Peter is a PhD student in Political Science at University of Toronto.