by Pastor Mike Middaugh
Since coming to Calvary, and the DC area about a year ago I have been surprised and in awe of diversity. While the Twin Cities had a surprising amount of ethnic and age diversity, with some neighborhoods housing speakers of over 80 different world languages , I rarely saw this represented in the local church. So many churches, especially Lutheran churches that I have experienced are fairly mono-cultural. This lack of ethnic diversity is further heightened by the fact that so many congregations are skewed towards the older age brackets. Yes, there are some churches, especially church plants, that are teeming with twenty and thirty somethings, but these are often missing the ‘Boomers and above.
This lack of diversity is caused by several different factors. First, people seem compelled to worship the way they have always worshiped. Sometimes worship style, liturgy and music are even at the center of congregational or denominational divisions. Never mind that the Bible pictures God’s people worshiping in a variety of fashions, or that every instrument in use in worship today was cutting edge at some point in history, we still tend to be very good at reasoning why we only want to worship in a certain style, or with certain instruments.
Second, churches are not always great at changing with the times. Especially in urban areas where recession or gentrification can change the landscape of a neighborhood within a decade, churches are not always great at adapting to these changes, or reaching those who live next door. I think this has a lot to do with personal comfort level. On Sunday morning, like most other times, we will tend towards comfort and what we are used to if at all possible. It is hard work to adapt to the way other people do things, and there is a certain level of risk that comes with the unknown. You have probably heard it said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America.
For these reasons I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the congregational diversity we experience at Calvary. Interestingly, it seems there are many churches in this area that have successfully bridged the cultural gap. Diversity in churches, in this area, seems to be more the norm than the exception. Yet there is still something special at Calvary. From the history I have heard it was one of the first Lutheran congregations in this area that welcomed diversity and for the most part we have been able to successfully keep and encourage this intermingling of age, race, ethnicity and even language.
I see this is a great blessing from God and a glimpse into His Kingdom revealed to the world. To read the book of Revelation is to see a picture of people from all nations, all tribes, all tongues and all places gathered together in worship of the creator God who lovingly sacrificed for all of them. This picture is incredible because human nature, since the beginning, has seemed to draw borders, pick fights, raise barriers and find reason for war, often because of perceived differences and cultural gaps. For the God of the Bible to step into this, bringing peace to a world divided, is a precious and Holy thing. And, God’s great plan is not to bring people together so that they might all become the same. But rather he seems to find joy in mending relationships in such a way that we begin to recognize, appreciate, and learn from each other’s differences rather than trying to eliminate them.
In our worship and experience as a congregation our goal should always be to make God’s Kingdom apparent in the world today. One great way to do this is to continue to draw together and love one another with and in our uniqueness’s. I believe this will in fact make our worship more beautiful, our minds less naive and our hearts more aware of the greatness of a God who could make and manage the diversity of this world.