by Stephanie Spellers
Is your community one of invitation, inclusivity or radical welcome? Each model offers different messages, goals, and results.
- The Message: “Come, join our community and share our cultural values and heritage.”
- The Goal: Assimilation: community invites new people to enter and adopt dominant identity
- The Effort: Systems and programs are in place to invite and incorporate newcomers into existing structures and identity; there is a rejection or marginalization of those who do not assimilate
- The Result: Healthy numbers (perhaps with some members who claim marginal identity) but institution and its membership is overwhelmingly monocultural
- The Message: “Help us to be diverse.”
- The Goal: Incorporation: community welcomes marginalized groups, but no true shift in the congregation’s cultural identity and practices
- The Effort: Stated commitment to inclusivity, but less attention to ongoing programs, systemic analysis or power; emphasis on individual efforts
- The Result: Revolving door, with people coming from margins only to stay on the fringe or leave; institutional structure remains monocultural, with some pockets of difference
- The Message: “Bring your culture, your voice, your whole self – we want to engage in truly mutual relationship.”
- The Goal: Incarnation: community embodies and expresses the full range of voices and gifts present, including The Other (see the post “Radical Welcome and The Other”).
- The Effort: Systems and programs in place to invite and welcome people, including those from the margins; to ensure their presence, gifts and perspective will be visible and valued; and to ensure that these new communities, gifts and values influence the congregation’s identity, ministries and structures.
- The Result: Transformed and transforming community with open doors and open hearts; different groups share power and shape identity, mission, leadership, worship, and ministries.
Which of the models below best fit your church’s current reality, in general? Why?
Stephanie Spellers is lead priest at The Crossing, the emergent community based at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Boston. An acclaimed preacher, she is the author of Radical Welcome: Embracing God, the Other and the Spirit of Transformation and co-editor of Ancient Faith, Future Mission: Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition.