A Divine Celebration of Unity and Diversity!
I am often asked what is unique about the congregation at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. The short answer, is that we are an oddly multicultural group. Sometimes you will hear phrases like multiracial and multiethnic, but both of these carry some difficulties. I reject the term multiracial, because it implies that “race” is something that is objectively defined. The reality is that the definition is actually quite spurious and “legally” defined differently by each state. The whole concept and history of “race” fills volumes of treatises, so I will not attempt to tackle that here.
I also will reject the term “multiethnic”. The problem with this idea is that it is actually too narrow of a definition. It excludes the non-geographical culture delineators such as homelessness, hearing impaired, chronic mental illness, etc. The reality is that there are “common bonds” that are much more powerful than ones origins of birth.
So what makes up a culture? The answers to that question are myriad. Some of the facets include common place of origin, although as already noted, it is not necessarily the most powerful. Language, dialect and vocabulary can have tremendous impact on how one interprets and views the world and self. Religious faith and the manner of practice of the same can be huge and admittedly has led to many wars and conflicts. Shared traditions, values and even symbolism will intertwine or exclude. Literature, folk lore, music and superstitions have major impact. Food preferences abound, as a result of taste, availability and convenience. The manner of settlement (neighborhood formation) and employment patterns may be considered. Special political interests can be pertinent, as well as special institutions like Boy Scouts. In general, just about any arena that can make a group feel distinctive contributes to the realm of culture. Interestingly, the idea of “white culture” in particularly in the United States has become viewed as requiring the surrender of all “other” cultures.
So what unites or binds a group as diverse as the one which gathers itself around Emmanuel? I believe there are major contributors. First, there is a sense of the sacred, of the One who is outside of ourselves, who is a “Higher Power”, for lack of a better term. Secondly, there is a grounding in prayer, the state of communication, connectedness, intimacy with the One. And finally, the universal need for a sense of belonging, security and identity. The challenge is that the “who”, “what”, “where”, “why”, “how”, and even the “when” frequently differ. But above all, I believe it is a work of God. This ragtag group we call the family of Emmanuel is of God’s calling, graces and mercies. And we are thrilled to see how He will expand it.
~ The Rev. Don C. Youse, Jr.