Churches challenged to be more inclusive

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland has produced resources to help churches think about how they can be more inclusive this Racial Justice Sunday.

Racial Justice Sunday falls on 9 September but churches are free to hold it on any Sunday during the year if they are unable to participate on the main day.

CTBI is urging churches to be an inclusive church and "not an exclusive club".

Although many churches would consider themselves to be inclusive, CTBI is encouraging congregations to hear the experiences of those who feel like they are on the outside, particularly those from different ethnic backgrounds.

The resources put together by CTBI explore these issues through stories, hymns, prayers, reflections and homilies.

They include a lady by the name of Tessa, who says she "felt excluded so often that it was difficult choosing one incident".

"Sometimes I wonder if my exclusion has anything to do with being a woman or that being black has more to do with it?" she said.

"I had been attending a particular church for almost a year and had gotten into the habit of staying for coffee after the service, when a lovely woman came up to me and said, ‘Welcome, is this your first time?’ and calling her by name, I politely explained to her that I had been attending for several months now.”

Tessa's story is an indication of "how far we have to go to be more inclusive", says CTBI.

Limbert Spencer, a member of the writing group from The Salvation Army, comments, “Our churches have a tremendous opportunity to evidence God’s Kingdom on earth by taking deliberate action to include members of Britain’s minority ethnic communities in our congregations.

"Most institutions find it almost impossible to respond positively to the idea that action is necessary if they are to include their minority ethnic communities, and thereby begin to reap the potential benefits of ethnic diversity."

He continues: "Whether it’s the times of the service, the music that accompanies the singing, tea/coffee after the service (or not), the way the house groups are organised, how the Sunday school is run, not to mention who sits on which ‘pew’, we are generally more comfortable with the way things are, with what we have become used to. We get familiar with the familiar."

He said the Church was likely to see growth in cities if church leaders made a clear commitment to inclusion and ethnic diversity, developed programmes to reach out to minority ethnic Britons, and taught church members to recognise the value of ethnic diversity.

"The black majority Church may also need to face the challenge of ethnic diversity in their congregations and leadership," said Mr Spencer.

For resources, go to: www.ctbi.org.uk/588

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