Celebrating Diversity in Dance, Image, Story and Song
Wednesday was dedicated to celebrating the racial, cultural and language diversity in Mennonite Church USA. According to the Pittsburgh 2011 program, one of the goals was to “reflect on the multicultural diversity of our church family and be a more welcoming and inclusive place for our Racial/Ethnic members.”
Events for the day included adult and youth worship, an intercultural dinner, a presentation of Common Threads, coffeehouse performances and group gatherings (African-American Mennonite Association, Iglesia Menonita Hispana and Peace and Evangelism in an Asian Context).
Glen Guyton, the associate executive director for constituent resources for Mennonite Church USA, said that the idea for the “We Are the Church” day emerged in October 2009 with the Intercultural Relations Reference Committee.
The leaders of the committee recognized the importance of being a visible presence at the Mennonite Church USA convention. Guyton said that there has been positive feedback so far concerning the extra emphasis on the diversity in the church.
The planning process for the convention and “We Are the Church” day in particular took shape with racial-ethnic leaders, the Executive Board and the intercultural relations office. More than 30 people helped to plan the different concerts, gatherings, late-night activities and other events.
An important part of the day was the Mennonite Historical Committee’s exhibit on the history of people of color and the Mennonite Church. The program book states that the exhibit “highlights successes and failure of a historically white Anglo church’s interactions with African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics, as well as with immigrant groups such as Asians and Africans.”
Guyton emphasized the importance of recognizing that although “We Are the Church” fell on a Wednesday set aside to recognize the racial, cultural and language diversity, the celebration is meant to extend beyond a single day. He expressed hope that the church “will see that we are trying to incorporate people throughout the week.”