Growing up, it never dawned on me that I was white. I just was. It wasn't something I needed to notice or care about, it was just how I and my little world was. Everyone looked like me and if someone didn't look like me, it didn't matter much because I knew God created all people equally.
And then I was married and our world sort of fell apart—or so it felt—and we found ourselves moving from one town to another city and attending a church passionate about the racial reconciliation through the Gospel. My husband started grad school and had documentaries to watch, like Eye of The Storm. We were in the adoption process and were reading everything we could regarding adoption, including adopting outside of our race. In the heat of an intense and discouraging election season, it seemed as though scales fell off our eyes and we no longer had the option of being blissfully ignorant to what our world was really like.
Even now we have maybe half a clue.
We did end up adopting outside of our race, and in so doing we have dove deeper into hearing from adults, transracially adopted. The number one thing I have heard, glaringly loud, is that these adoptees wished their parents would have celebrated, offered representation, and adopted their race and culture when they were adopted as their children.
I'll never forget meeting our son for the first time, my heart wrapping right around his, promising to work hard at not (unintentioanlly) silencing him or making him feel other'ed.
I failed to realize, before bringing our son into our family, how incredibly much we as white people miss out on when we aren't in close community with people of other race and ethnicity.
Dr King said Sunday mornings are the most segregated hour in America, and that's really too bad. To get a full and whole picture of the Gospel—of Heaven on earth—we need each other. We live completely different lives, cultures, experiences. How could we possibly understand the Gospel or God's heart to their fullest without being in close relationship with all kinds of His people?
It was the sixth consecutive Sunday we noticed Sage was the only child of color in his nursery class at church.
It hadn't always been that way; there was usually a bit of diversity.
The pit in my stomach was something I knew I needed to pay attention to, my common sense was well aware of the issue, our conversation was more than necessary.
When we moved from the small college town to the big city, trading our pastor title for less shiny titles, we swore up and down we would not join a church plant again.
Loren was confident he'd never be a part of a church plant or baby church. I said maybe in a decade, but certainly not in the foreseeable future.
They are so much work, there is absolutely no way to be invested in the community and not join a million "teams" and "volunteer gigs" unless you are fine feeling guilty every single Sunday. --> This was our inner dialogue, so healthy, I know.
We waited out the summer, hoping the other children of color would return to Sunday school nursery class. It was still glaringly obvious representation for my son of color was lacking.
We loved this community. We loved the Sunday morning worship, the pew we sat on every week, the endless amounts of coffee available. We are obviously super deep and spiritual.
This was the church place we thought we'd be a part of for years, calling it our home and family. They are focused on racial reconciliation and having uncomfortable conversations for the sake of the Gospel. They are safe for all people. The space of Sunday mornings was used to bring healing to some very deep wounds after being fired from our previous church.
But if our son of color was not able to see himself in the leadership and kids classes...it couldn't be our permanent church. Sure, there were black families and interracial families and families that matched ours and a black female pastor. But this church was big and the majority of the community and leadership is white.
I've been listening to voices like Rhonda Roorda and Angela Tucker and it is clear to me the importance of representation. I also read on multiple NPR articles that 2% of teachers across America are black males, and I wonder what the percentage is for youth pastors.
My gut twisted and told me it was important to find a community with black pastors and leaders to learn under.
Our central campus—the large campus in downtown—recently planted a church campus on the east side of Portland. We lived directly in the middle of the two campuses, but knew we needed to transition to East Side. It was planted by a local leader of color, and the leadership is predominantly people of color.
We decided to visit one Sunday and were hooked. Not only for the sake of our son of color, but for all of us. We needed to be there. It's apparent and common sense to us that we need to be providing voices of color for Sage to find safety and representation. Yes. Duh. But we also were blinded to how incredibly important it was for us to be under leadership of color. Neither of us had ever been under the authority of a person of color. No pastors, no teachers, no sports coaches.
A week after deciding we needed to transition to a church plant—something we were sure we'd never do—we moved less than two miles from the east side campus.
This has been one of our best decisions. First of all, the worship is bomb. Second of all, we are viewing and understanding scripture from an entirely new stand point and perspective. Never have I read scripture as a black man or woman, because hello, I'm white. The last two months of sermons were sermons I wished I had heard years ago, learned years ago, but here I am.
Yes, there are children of color and leaders of color in the kid's classes. But so much more than that, we are diving deep into a sacred space of community, hearing from the depths of hearts and learning about the Gospel of Jesus in an entirely new light. We've been praying for years for ways to more frequently diversify our dinner table more than it has been, and it has been such an answer of prayer to join this community.
We have been privileged to join the Barbers home community group, which has provided so much space learn from other followers of Jesus who have a different experience as us in this world. Their kids are so good with the boys, and it is my hope that we get to be a part of their community for a long time.
And you guys. We don't hate being a part of a church plant. It's softening parts of our hardened hearts, healing bits at a time, and reminding us of grace.
So, cheers to our church community. It's a space safe to be who we each are individually, bringing our unique selves and experiences to create a fuller picture of the gospel.
Interested in some of these sermons? Here are two of the most recent that clicked so deeply within me, I want the whole world to know them: