Last year, Chris White hosted a dialogue at Harvard sharing about race. In this week’s UniteBoston blog, Reverend White encourages us to “begin with the end in mind” as he shares his story on racial reconciliation.
As the end of 2014 approaches, it is important that we take time to look back on the year. My hope for unity in Boston and America is that we will “begin with the end in mind.”
We learn by stories, so I will share mine. I was adopted from Bogota, Colombia into a white family. My Mom is Polish and my dad is English, hence the last name White. They say we have a castle in London but I have yet to see it. I grew up in Peabody. If you aren’t from Boston, it is pronounced as one word really fast, “Peabody.” My skin color isn’t white, but I grew up white; I lived in a white neighborhood and was brought up Catholic which is predominantly white. I also experienced white privilege, which to me is better schools, safer neighborhoods, and higher paying jobs.
As a person of color, I also experienced racism. I remember when I was studying at UMass Amherst, I was rollerblading and fell. I started bleeding and across the street there was a white woman. She stopped, stared, did not say a word, and walked away. It hurt not just the pain from the cut but that I was ignored.
Some say you are born into what you believe. For me, that statement rings true. I often wondered why I was brought up in Boston with a mom who’s family was Catholic and part of my dad’s family who was Jewish. My mom thought it would be a good idea to experience both religious traditions. It probably would have been if I didn’t encounter Christ when I was in college.
It wasn’t until I read The Purpose Driven Life that I understood better why God made me the way He did and put me in America. “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.“ (Acts 17:26)
I enjoyed my Catholic upbringing and had an amazing priest named Father Bruce. During my second year of college, I met some friends who were Mormons and inspired me to learn more about God. To make a long story short, I made Jesus my Savior and became born again.
I was ordained by the American Baptist of Massachusetts in 2009. We do many things together to reflect unity in Boston. We have joint services with blacks and whites, we help minorities build stronger congregations, and we provide funding for minority children to come to Camp Grotonwood.
In his famous book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey encourages us to “begin with the end in mind. Picture you are in heaven, and think about what that looks like as you sing to God, “And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)
Heaven is a place where all the colors bleed into one. If heaven is going to be blacks, whites, Catholics and Protestants worshiping together and living as one, wouldn’t it make sense to do ministry the same way?
My hope for the churches of Boston is that we would do more together. Yes, the scripture in John 17:23 calls us to be one. But what does that one look like and who are these people in the organizations making the decisions? During my time there were many older white men in leadership. I hope that the leaders would come from many different backgrounds and ethnicities.
I also hope that the Catholic and Protestant Churches would work together, as well as various ethnic groups. As we work together, think about those who are worshiping with you. If you are trying to get black people to come to your events make sure you include some Gospel.
I’d also encourage churches to share your wealth! Many black churches don’t have the funds that white churches have because of slavery and discrimination. Whenever possible, we need to support black missionaries and minorities. Minority staff are not going to have as much access to funds that white staff have available to them. I know this personally from my experience working with Intervarsity and Campus Crusade for Christ; the diversity of the staff wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, but I am thankful that both organizations are working on this.
Finally, I’d encourage Christians in Boston to be intentional as they live. No one likes to be ignored and people of color feel that way a lot. It is important to say hello and acknowledge them. Stretch yourself and your network by attending a black church or white church, by helping out at a Catholic event or a Protestant service. One of the best things you can do is to have a friend of the opposite race. Be like Jesus and break down the racial and denominational barriers. Begin with the end in mind!