John reminds us in the very first chapter of his gospel that as children of God, it is our faith in Jesus that makes us part of God’s family, with a place in His kingdom. It is not the family that we are born into, it is not our country of birth, nor is it the colour of our skin. Throughout the Bible, God repeatedly reminds us that His people, His family, come from every people group, language and nation. Yet, even as Christians, we may struggle to see people, even our brothers and sisters in Christ, the way God does.

George Floyd’s tragic death last month triggered a series of protests around the world. It led to many of us facing the heart-breaking reality that racism still exists, and the consequences of such discrimination are brutal. The protests in the UK have shown us that, while we as a country have made much progress towards ethnic integration, many steps still have to be taken on our journey. And I believe this applies to the church as much as it does wider society. As the family of God, we still have a lot to learn and do. Current events have provided us with yet another opportunity to learn and grow and show the world a better way.

But conversations about racial distinctions and the discrimination experienced by people as a result of their ethnicity make many of us feel uncomfortable. Who wants to say the wrong thing and be perceived as ignorant or prejudice? How many of us become defensive when someone raises the topic of ethnicity? And so, this all-important subject can swiftly become either the elephant in the church or the invisible problem. Yet, in 2020, as I say, we find that we have a golden opportunity to open our ears and our pulpits to this conversation. Doing so will take courage.

Storytelling helps

As a Welsh woman I could tell stories all day. On a good day, I might even sing you some. Due to my mixed ethnicity (I’m the Welsh granddaughter of a Sri Lankan immigrant), my interracial marriage (I’m the wife of an Albanian-Italian), and my mothering of three beautiful children (‘third culture kids’), prejudice and discrimination have sadly been something I have grown up with. 

I have many stories that I could share about the challenges, such as the time my then four-year-old daughter asked, Mum, if I washed myself enough, could I wash away the brown?” While these stories do hurt, over the years, I have discovered that storytelling helps us to reflect upon how we respond to discrimination, racism and prejudice, and it helps us to learn how to get better at celebrating diversity while promoting unity.

Christians from across all ethnic backgrounds will have stories to share about their experiences. Many of these stories will, like some of my own, be painful. Many may even surprise us, as we realise that we have inadvertently made someone feel like the other’. But it’s so crucial that we tell these stories and ask questions. Again, it takes courage to share, to ask difficult questions, and to listen to honest answers. 

As we encourage each other to share our stories and experiences, we will learn, we will find gaps, we will bring people together, and we will get even closer to reflecting true Christian community. As we listen, our bond of unity and depth of love for one another will grow. As we become better at celebrating diversity while promoting unity, the world will take notice and come to know that we are God’s children and part of one family. We will offer something, and someone, to long for and desire to be a part of.

The [Im]possible Dream by Steve Clifford, former general director of the Evangelical Alliance, and Yemi Adedeji, director of its One People Commission, can help us on this journey. God’s house, the church, is a house of all nations, and we all have a role to play to ensure that each and every member of our local church feels like they belong and are at home. Could your church be doing more? 

Christians from across all ethnic backgrounds will have stories to share about their experiences.