David Maskell
Diversity Is God's Way

Diversity Is God’s Way

When we seek friendships, we often seek out people just like us, people who perhaps have had the same up bringing as us, have the same professional status and are round about the same age.  We feel comfortable with people like this and connection is easy.

Back in 2020 we held a series of Zoom meetings called Let’s Talk About Race. The whole purpose of these talks was for us to hear the stories of the lives of those who had experienced racial prejudice and abuse.  It was an opportunity for those who had been on the receiving end of prejudice to talk about their experience and have their stories heard.  There were lots of tears on those nights from those sharing their stories and also from those hearing the stories, and understanding perhaps for the first time the hurt that others had experienced in their day to day lives.

Fast forward to today, how much have we changed? Have a quick mental check; think of the people you would regard as your closest friends, are they all like you or are any of them from a different ethnic background?  Did any of them have a different upbringing to you? Do they talk the same way as you?  Do they drive the same sort of car as you?  How did you do?  Well done if you have people close to you who are different to you.  If the reality is they are all like you, what are you going to do about it?

What about at Grace Church?  Who do you chat to over coffee at the end of the meeting?  Who are your Grace Church friends?  Is it people who are like you or do you have conversations with a diverse range of people?

How welcome do our guests feel when they visit us?  Does someone from a different country and ethnic background feel at home with us?  How about someone who comes from a different socio-economic background to us?  Do they feel they belong or do they feel like they don’t fit in? Are they uncomfortable because they feel judged?

It’s clear from the Bible that Jesus saves Jew, Greek, Gentile and that they have equal relationship with him.  Therefore, heaven will be made up from men and women from all tribes and tongues, then surely the church should reflect this?  It doesn’t seem to me to be God’s plan to have one church for white middle class people, another church for those with an African ethnicity and another church for the poor, one church for the young and another for those who have “seen more summers”!

I am quickly leaning that building a diverse church is harder work than just finding people like us, but it is rewarding to discover the richness and value of other cultures. 

We began listening as a church back in 2020, listening is a good start.  Owen Hylton a Black Pastor leading a diverse church in London, said in an interview on a Podcast called Rough Edges, that after listening we need to move to where we acknowledge and accept the stories that we have heard, to accept the history rather than to question.  He goes on to say that to be part of a diverse church can be humbling, to acknowledge that there are other ways to do things, realizing my way is not the only way to achieve the same result.

We as the church can achieve reconciliation and unity at the foot of the Cross in a way that the world can never achieve through legislation.  We can be united in Christ, and in demonstrating this we have a message to share with the people of Salisbury and Amesbury, that Jesus accepts all people to live in harmony together as the body of Christ.

Would people who live in some of the poorer parts of Salisbury feel at home if they came in to our meeting one Sunday morning?  What if someone who lives in a poorer area of the city comes in?  Will they feel comfortable or will they feel people are judging them?  What can we do to include people so they feel like they belong with us?

We have a call to action as a church to work on  making people feel accepted, loved and welcome. A call to reflect on what we can individually do  to reach out to others to connect, to make people feel welcome and part of Grace Church.  A practical example that a number of our people in our church practice regularly is inviting someone from a different background to you round to your house to share some food with you, or inviting someone to share a coffee in town with you. Sometimes, it’s the little things that really make a difference.   

Let’s do all we can to build a diverse church, where everyone has a voice and knows that they belong.

David Maskell

February 2023