This past week coming off a wonderful educational experience at Krapalu in narrative listening, I began another conference that brought together those working with young adults and those in campus ministry. In full disclosure the conference was at the university I work at. Also, in full disclosure the planning team was initially all white and I was not included in the conversation. It was only later that I was added to the team. No intentional oversight here (intent and impact).
What I experienced was structural racism and lack of diversity and inclusion in the church. Black and brown bodies were routinely excluded from the conversation and as participants in breakout groups. While there were a number of presenters of color the number of participants were painfully low. A myriad of discussions took place regarding young people in / out of the church but no one talked about the elephant in the room. The elephant had been nicely dressed up with the clothing of energy and excitement about the “new” ways of being and doing church and how wonderful we are meeting the needs of youth, when in fact it was a conversation amongst people who represented the dominate race and culture of our denominations.
I will probably not attend a future gathering as this monochromatic table has no chairs for me. There were micro-aggression that were exhibited that were too numerous to count exhibited towards myself and other participants of color and the university’s staff of color.
I will continue to work with my fellow university chaplains from other denominations that daily engage the intersectionality of race, culture and class. My heartbreak is that my denomination was presented with a wonderful, beautiful way to engage young people in the church and choose to maintain the status quo. I will continue to be fed by the church, by the richness of its diversity not by the scarcity of the crumbs.