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Building Multi-Racial Worshipping Communities

June 1st, 2012by Deacon Royce Winters

On May 4, 2012, I attended a Racial Justice Summit that was held at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  The keynote presenters were Mr. Michael Emerson and Ms. Michelle Alexander.

There were a number of topics that grabbed me on this day: Mass Incarceration; The Fight for Justice and Equality for the Poor; and Collateral Sanctions – Re-Entry of Felons.  But, the statements that snatched me from the throes of disillusionment were made by Mr. Emerson.  He simply stated, “Cincinnati, Ohio had recently been listed as one of America’s most segregated cities.” And, “Church communities are one of the leading culprits in furthering segregation.”

He did suggest at solution, that pastors and pastoral leaders should commit to guiding their churches into becoming multi-racial worshiping communities.  A multi-racial worshiping community would be defined as a community in which a given minority makes up 20% of its total population.

I’ve heard and read before that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America.  Yet, this time I heard it much clearer than ever before.  The venue of the Freedom Center played a major role in my hearing differently.  My hearing was opened by the struggle of a people who were seeking freedom, respect, dignity – and God heard their pleas.

This week, I began to wrestle with the following questions: What impact would “building” multi-racial worshiping communities have on the Office of African American Catholic Ministries in which I am Director?  How would I engage Archdiocesan leaders in this discussion?  What issues would need to be addressed at the Church of the Resurrection in which I am Pastoral Associate for Faith Formation?

What it means is that in order to do this with integrity, any group of individuals would have to intentionally address the history of the formation of “Black Catholic Parishes.” And, confront pastors and parishes who relegate minorities to less than full members of the parish.

We simply have to be willing to engage ourselves in this conversation, so that we can begin anew in our appreciation for one another and our cultures.  Racism still exists in America and we must address it in order to be effective in our witness as Christian believers.  In the U.S. Catholic Bishops Statement – Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity, they wrote, “…Racist attitudes can linger in subtle ways, even when people get to know one another in parish activities, unless we vigorously educate ourselves about our neighbors, learn to appreciate their heritages, encounter their own images of us, and strive to work with them on behalf of common cause.”

This is the time for us to call upon the Living God, to pour forth his Spirit into our ‘dry bones’, so that we can live together as equals – as brothers and sisters of the One Lord, Jesus the Christ.

Deacon Royce Winters

Deacon Royce Winters is the director of African American Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He has been married for 36 years and his wife, children and grandchildren all attend Church of the Resurrection in Bond Hill.