Unstoppable is the word that comes to mind when you look at the early days of the church. Conflict and controversy threatened to take down the young group but, instead of destroying it, the challenges fueled the fire that spread across the first-century landscape.
And now, in these challenging times, we are reminded of our mission through the following stories from Lake Union department leaders what being the Church is really about — God’s people doing God’s work together by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“When we approach God, it will be as one brotherhood. We are pilgrims and strangers, bound for a better country, even a heavenly. There all pride, all accusation, all self-deception, will forever have an end. Every mask will be laid aside, and we shall ‘see Him as He is.’” (Review and Herald, Oct. 24, 1899)
In 2015 the Lake Union officers felt the need to foster an understanding of the unique challenges in our past history that our African American members faced, so in June of that year Don Livesay, our former Lake Union president, offered a formal apology at the Lake Region camp meeting for the racist behaviors and practices that had taken place for many years in our territory. We then decided to continue a journey seeking unity by encouraging dialogue on race and diversity in several cities. We began those conversations in 2016 in the Village church in Berrien Springs. We then continued in 2017 with pastors and laypeople in Indianapolis, continued them in Milwaukee in 2018 and now currently we are having monthly conversations between Lake Region and Michigan conference pastors who are pastoring in the Detroit Motor City area.
In each of the conversation initiatives we have been teaching the need to understand ourselves and those of a different culture by teaching the principles of cultural intelligence. Cultural Intelligence is understood as the individual’s capability to communicate cross-culturally. Part of the journey included each pastor taking a cultural intelligence assessment so as to determine their ability to communicate cross-culturally and to see how the African American, White and Asian pastors are similar and yet different in their cultural values.
In interviewing four of the pastors who are involved in the conversations it was interesting to hear their responses. Darryl Bentley, pastor of the Metropolitan Church, shared that the conversations have given him a “greater awareness of how we approach things” and that it’s been worth the effort to “move the needle on cultural relations.” Ron Sydney, pastor of the Pontiac Center and Pontiac Southside churches, stated that, as a millennial, he is ecstatic that he is a part of the ongoing conversations and is enjoying getting connected with the Michigan Conference pastors. Steve Schefka, pastor of the Brighton Church, says that he is thankful for the cultural intelligence assessments that were given because it put the pastors in the right frame of mind to understand the differences in various cultures. Pastor Dwayne Duncombe, pastor of Detroit City Temple, shared with me that he has appreciated the frankness of the discussions and also the opportunity to relate to one another as peers, which included their eating together at local restaurants. Pastor Duncombe concluded the interview by saying that he believes God can use these meetings as an opportunity to exemplify the prayer of Jesus that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
As we continue these conversations, it is our prayer that God will lead us to minister together in tangible ways that will live ultimately live out this prayer.
Carmelo Mercado, Lake Union general vice president