Sunday, May 20, 2007

A strange thought or two.

This probably belongs more in my BCA blog, but since it's read by so few.......

I was sitting in church today, and during the homily, I confess that my mind wandered a little.

I looked at the faces around me, and realized how wonderfully diverse my parish is. Part of that comes from it being in a college town -- today, for example, Asian students, Hispanic workers, black families, and Caucasians from every possible European background sat and listened to a Nigerian priest celebrate Mass.

I remembered the first time I'd ever seen a black minister (except for Rev. Ike on TV): I was around 3 years old, and we had a missionary come speak at my church one evening. We were running a few minutes late, and when we got there, Mom says that I looked at Rev. Mathura (already in the pulpit) and said very loudly, "Mommy! He's black!" (He was from Trinidad). My mother says she wanted the floor to just open up and swallow us both whole......

It was unusual in my church -- or for that matter, in much of America. I have often heard it said that the most segregated hour of the week is 11:00 on Sunday mornings. While some of that is thankfully changing, it's still true in many churches of every denomination. De facto segregation born of a time when it was de jure. And my congregation was as lily-white as they came. So a black minister was cause for jaw-dropping.

Luckily for me, Rev. Mathura took everything with a big dose of laughter, realizing it came from the mouth of a child. Even years later, when we might run into him in public (once he left the missionary field and returned to a congregation), he would laugh and say, "Yes, little girl, I'm still black."

Today also reminded me of the first time I visited an "inner-city" parish. There is a parish nearby that is specifically there to minister to the African-American community. I went there with some friends, and enjoyed it tremendously -- their Gospel Choir was so good (and only 5 of them there that early!). Truth be told, the racial makeup of the parish is closer to 50-50 black and white/other. Later that fall, one of my friends took his parents -- who are Midwesterners and have lived in fairly large cities most of their adult lives. His mother was amazed: "What a great parish and a wonderful Mass. And I hate to say it, but you'd NEVER see this diversity even where we live. There are black parishes and white parishes, and rarely do they meet." So much for the "racist" South.

Today, it made me proud of my church -- open to all, welcoming of all -- and especially of my parish, reaching out to everyone in a spirit of brotherhood. It is one of the many reasons I love St. XYZ.

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