Rev. Var Smallwood explains some of the story behind a conference he is organising in partnership with WEBA, Bristol Baptist College, and the Church of God of Prophecy.
|Var and his wife Emma with Pastor Raymond Viera of the Church of God of Prophecy|
Until last year, I was the pastor of a multi-cultural church in Bristol. We were proud of being mixed because we felt that being ‘Beautifully Different’ is a powerful witness to the gospel. Every photo I took to publicise the church was carefully managed to have both Black and White people and our diaconate was studiously mixed. And yet, and yet... something was not quite working.
Then I went on a Sabbatical. With my family, I toured community churches in the States. As we travelled, the issue of ‘race’ came to the fore again and again. Everything went smoothly until we spent an afternoon with an African-American lady called Anne Stewart. She belonged to a very progressive church in Chicago who shared all their income (Acts 4:32) and were thoroughly committed to being multi-cultural. But in passing she said, ‘You’ve no idea how White you’ve got to be to belong here’.
CRASH. BANG. WALLOP.
Suddenly, that one throw-away line opened our eyes to the hidden issues lurking beneath the surface of ‘multi-cultural’ church. Who’s in charge? Which culture dominates? These are the real questions that need to be faced. It has led us to more questions. For example:
Why don't White people go to Black-led churches?
Why do some Black people go to White-led churches?
What is Black theology?
Is there such a thing as White theology?
How is our common mission affected by these questions?
It has now led us to be working for a Black-led church and to be planting a new multi-cultural church in partnership with WEBA.
It has led us to hosting a conference called ‘Re-Visiting Mission’ on Saturday 9th March (2 Tudor Road, Bristol, BS5 6BW). This event is in partnership with WEBA, BUGB, Bristol Baptist College and the Church of God of Prophecy and it will be seeking to address some of these important and current questions. The speakers are of the highest quality and there will also be optional drama and music workshops to help us reflect on the theme. Please come and help build lasting partnerships across social and ethnic boundaries.
Speakers at the conference will include Dr. Anthony Reddie, Rev Dr. Rosalyn Murphy, and Rev. Israel Olofinjana, and the conference moderators will be Rev. Dr. Stephen Finamore (Principal of Bristol Baptist College) and Pastor Raymond Viera (Regional Overseer, COGOP South West England).
The day costs £15 including lunch and refreshments. To book your place please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 939 1866.