“Today is not the only time we will be having a cultural competency training. This is only the beginning.”
Jay Kim, GNJ’s Director of Human Resources and Superintending Support Team, opened with these words to the more-than-forty eager GNJ staff-persons attending a full-day of cultural competency training on Monday, October 24. “Cultural competency is being aware of your own cultural beliefs and values and how these may be different from other cultures—including being able to learn about and honor the different cultures of those you interact with,” Kim continued.
In 2017, the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference passed a resolution calling for the implementation of a 10-year intercultural competence plan where there is to be a systemic shift in GNJ from diversity to intercultural competency. The Journey of Hope plan to end the sin of racism in the Greater New Jersey area was passed during the 2020 October special session to build on the intercultural competency plan. Among the core competencies in every GNJ staff job description, one of them is to be “committed to grow in intercultural competence.” This training day was one step forward in the journey towards fulfilling this commitment.
General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race Rev. Dr. Giovanni Arroyo led the transformational sessions. The anticipation was high, and the participation dynamic. Participants began the morning with self-awareness exercises reflecting on the origin of their names. In the afternoon, teams held discussions on how cultural competency will impact GNJ’s five staff core values of innovation and risk taking, excellence in its ministry and service, compassionate and just service, diversity, and collaboration.
Capital District Superintendent Héctor A. Burgos was inspired by the stories shared during small group conversations and for having the opportunities of getting to know his colleagues at a deeper level. “It was both encouraging and challenging reflecting on how power dynamics impact our ability to fully see others and that sometimes for achieving inclusion, rather than adding chairs to the table, there needs to be a willingness on those already at the table to step down to make room for others,” Burgos shared.
Rev. Dr. Juel Nelson serves as the Director of Leadership Development and worked with Kim to design and implement this day of training. “Our vision to grow in intercultural competency doesn’t only mean congregations, laity, and pastors, but also includes the staff of the annual conference,” said Nelson. “It is critical for GNJ staff to consider how the Journey of Hope Plan – an annual conference legislation – impacts how we work and live day-to-day.”
Nelson and Kim plan to continue to work with General Commission on Religion and Race in providing professional development in the area of intercultural competency for GNJ staff so that the team might grow and better-work alongside diverse congregations and church leaders in ending the sin of racism in Greater New Jersey together.
Burgos is excited for what is next. He concluded, “I look forward to our staff team continuing to go deeper and growing in cultural competence so that we can leverage our God-given diversity in GNJ.”