Written by Ben Allaway
The Bush Was Blazing but Not Consumed: Gracious Leadership Training at the Kaleidoscope Institute
One of my strong desires over the years has been to connect more with the various ethnic communities which exist around the church’s neighborhood, and particularly with the people taking ESL (English as a Second Language) at First Christian Church. I didn’t really know where to begin, and simply didn’t have the time necessary to commit to a more formal ministry in this area. I had created the Thresholds Festival with this goal in mind, but even in its most successful years, it was difficult to keep up with the relationships that had been developed.
So when I saw the material on Eric Law’s Kaleidoscope Institute, doing what they called “Gracious Leadership Training” for multicultural ministry, this seemed to be what I needed to understand the dynamics and best practices for ministry with immigrants, refugees, and various established ethnic groups such as African-American, Latino and Asian.
The goal of the course was to engage in thoughtful consideration, conversation and self-reflection on the subjects of power and powerlessness as they relate to ministry in diverse environments, and to learn concrete ways to empower local communities (such as First Christian Church) to move toward greater intercultural competency.
Eric Law, an Episcopal priest of Chinese-American descent and founder of the Kaleidoscope Institute, posed this question at the beginning of the training: “In a diverse community, how do you engage people and keep them talking about “hot topics” without them “consuming” one another? Often in communities of people with diverse experiences, perspectives, theologies and political persuasions, people can become defensive and judgmental. The passion for their own perspective can be expressed in ways that are hurtful and “consuming”.
In the story of the calling of Moses in Exodus, the bush burns and yet is not consumed. This provides us with an image that can help leaders to navigate their communities through difficult issues both constructively and faithfully. When these communities begin to communicate and function together in healthy ways, they become “the bush that burns without being consumed.” When the fire dies down and goes out, they remain standing as a testament and example of strong, deep, successful interconnected communities which provide hope in the greater society.
I believe First Christian Church has been and can continue to be that type of community, improving our understanding and actions, and collaborating more with our neighbors. I look forward to sharing this model with you in some new ways this Fall. Our new Welcome and Connection ministry is looking for members to begin looking at this material. We’d love to have you come to our first meeting on September 8th, 5:30–6:30 pm. Peace!