NEPTUNE – GNJ in partnership with the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR), is taking on intercultural competency in the church through love and learning. On Saturday, September 23, GNJ hosted the first Cross-Racial Cross-Cultural Appointment Training with the goal of strengthening and growing diversity, communication, and collaboration in our local churches and communities.
Rev. Juel Nelson, Director of Leadership Development, spoke about the importance of the training. She pointed to the statistics of the cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments in GNJ saying, “This year we had nearly half our new appointments being cross-racial or cross-cultural, meaning the pastor is a different culture and or race than the majority of the congregation.”
Cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments are a gift to the pastor, congregation and community. However, these appointments can also be challenging without the tools to openly engage in a dialogue of understanding around differences, but more importantly, similarities.
The Cross-Racial Cross-Cultural Training was led by Rev. Giovanni Arroyo and Rev. Dr. Grace Pak of General Commission on Race and Religion (GCORR). Nineteen churches participated in the event along with District Superintendents and several members of the Intercultural Competency Taskforce, the team leading GNJ’s 10-year commitment to growing intercultural competency.
“Racial and cultural understanding takes hard word and intentionality,” said Pak. “As a faith community, putting our trust in a God larger than this world, this is a message and initiative that we should all be able to get behind.”
The day kicked off with devotion and was followed by breakout sessions covering the topics, ‘identifying your own cultural identity’ and ‘understanding culture.’ Participants then broke into small groups to process what they had heard and were given the opportunity to come up with a strategy to share what they learned with their congregations. Participants were also provided with GCORR training resource “Learning from Strangers” which takes a deep dive into the joys and challenges of cross-racial and cross-cultural ministry.
After hosting a successful first training session, the work is only just getting started for these congregations. This training served as an introduction to the topic, while more meaningful follow-up conversations around cross-racial and cross-cultural dynamics have already been planned. Rev. Nicole Caldwell-Gross, Director of Mission and Community Development noted that a pastors gathering will take place on January 31, 2018, and a pastors and congregational gathering is also scheduled for March 17, 2018.
Pak, a member of GNJ, shared an important closing message with the participants:
“We are called to celebrate diversity as God’s gift, learning and growing in love toward each other. When we do this well, then we can have impact in the surrounding community, bringing people together and building peace with justice. Remember, this work is not just a one-time event, but this is a process of changing the culture of our churches, our families, our communities and our world…May the Lord bless you on this journey toward God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven! Thanks be to God!”