This past summer, I had the privilege of reading a galley copy of Tracey Lewis-Giggett’s important new book The Integrated Church that is now being made available by her publisher Beacon Hill Press. As is our practice, my wife read and I read it to each other on our long road trip to family vacation in South Carolina. Normally we read lighter fare like fiction, biography or books on a historical subject that is of interest to us both. This year, I thought would try and tackle something deeper and more impactful. Little did I expect it to arouse the questions and discussions that we had as a result.
Tracy is a gifted writer and at several points during the book, my wife who is an avid reader would stop and comment something along the lines of “she sure knows how to get her point across”. Her expertise as a writer and her passion for the subject of authentic multicultural ministry were certainly evident on the pages of this excellent new book and kept me reading all the way to the end.
This book is neither a diatribe against the church because of our well known lack of integration – Sunday is often called the most segregated hour of the week – nor a simplistic handbook for instantaneous and successful multicultural ministry. One of the things that I most appreciated about this book was Tracey’s tough but honest appraisal of the church in America today combined with fervent belief that authentic multicultural ministry is actually possible and Biblically necessary. The message of her book is encapsulated in a statement that she makes at the end of the first chapter when she says,
“Heaven is going to look a whole lot different from the church right now. How do we change this for the kingdom’s sake?”
Growing up, my parents took us to many different churches and we called several places our church home over the years. Living on the island of Barbados as a teenager, I was able to experience truly authentic multicultural ministry at a church called Abundant Life Assembly. This charismatic church was largely attended by people of African decent and pastored by a humble, understated white man named Willy Cuke. This church was my spiritual baseline and a place that I could grow in my walk with the Lord every week. It was known as one of the few truly integrated churches on the island and allowed me to see that color did not have to define a worship experience. As a minority in that church, I never felt out of place or unappreciated, nor was I or my family put on a pedestal and given some special place of honor.
As a white person who has been involved in multicultural ministry through CLC for the last 15 years in the city of Philadelphia , this book really made me sit up and think about my own behaviors and thought patterns. While I look back fondly at my experience in Barbados as a teenager, I have never had that same experience in America. Even as I have worked alongside many African Americans, served many African Americans in our stores and worshiped at predominantly African American churches on many occasions, I realized that this was not the kind of authentic multicultural ministry that Tracey was describing in the book. She is calling for something wholly separate from what most of experience here in America and more like what is taking place at Jubilee Church in Enfield, London where Adrian Warnock and others are doing church in an entirely new way.
In a riveting statement that I will be pondering for some time Tracey makes the case that,
“People, no matter the race or creed, desire to be celebrated, not tolerated. It’s important for churches to embrace the differences of their changing congregations in their journey down the road toward diversity.”
I encourage you to consider buying, reading and sharing this book with others when it releases on September 6th. It will be available at www.clcbookcenter.com and in our local CLC stores for those within driving distance.