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The church can bridge the racial divide


Why must Sunday morning remain the most segregated time of the week in America? Is breaking the color barrier in the church so impossible? Do we expect heaven to be separated by color, too?

No divine presence encourages racism. I've never read a sacred text saying worshippers should segregate themselves by race. We’ve learned to attend churches in ways that maintain racial barriers.

To paraphrase President Biden, we must end this uncivil war in religion that pits black against white.

Being African American, I’ve attended many white congregations. In my 30s, I joined a White United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. The message was more important than the difference in my race.

I didn't receive a warm reception. Nor did I perceive members didn't want me there. You can say it was a lukewarm religious experience.

The people elected Vice President Kamala Harris with Joe Biden. She is biracial. Her leadership signals a break from the past that the country needs.

There's a breath of fresh air at the highest levels of national leadership.

I believe Biden wants an administration that mirrors the U.S. demographic landscape. Plus, people of color helped get him elected. I pray for the day when all Americans demand diverse leadership.

Can the U.S. government be a diversity model for people of faith? Absolutely. However, we must remember this: Multiculturalism requires intention.

White pastors and lay leaders must encourage racially diverse church services. Pastors can preach sermons about anti-racism. White church members can swing wide the doors to the church.

Pastors should preach racial unity among their members. That would empower White church members to look at their attitudes about race. The work demands a long-term commitment.

White pastors should invite peers from other races to preach. For example, Black clergy should invite White clergy to their pulpits and vice versa. LatinX and Asian clergy must also model inclusion.

When parishioners witness their spiritual leaders modeling anti-racist leadership, it rubs off.

I speak as a Black pastor of a white church. The integration process is slow. Yet, I committed myself to help the church disrupt White supremacy culture.

Las Cruces’ Unitarian Universalist church is striving to be more inclusive. We’ve done a lot of social justice work and have attracted some people of color. We welcome everyone.

The City of Las Cruces has a multiracial mayor. Our city manager is a person of color. There are city councilors of color. There are chiefs of color in the police and fire departments. Dona Ana County has commissioners of color. We need the same diversity in church pews.

Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Eastern Orthodox, Pagans and all others must participate, too. They should intentionally reach out to people of color and welcome them. Likewise, churches of color must up their game and welcome White folks.

The question remains: does all that religion change hearts and minds? It should. Sacred texts encourage unity. All faiths promote love. We can expect that same love and unity in the afterlife.

Let's begin now disrupting racial separation on Sunday mornings. Church folks must break down false barriers on Sunday mornings. It’s the path to ending this “uncivil war.”

There’s no other way to become a beloved community.

Rev. Xolani Kacela is minister to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Las Cruces.