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Switch to Forum Live View Ethnicity in your congregation
5 years ago  ::  Oct 03, 2012 - 10:07AM #1
TOMinAZ
Posts: 76
This past Sunday we had a guest preacher who is the chaplain at our synod's retreat center. He was telling us about creating a welcoming place, practicing hospitality. He was a really great speaker.

He told a story about serving a small, rural congregation in northern Minnesota, and how one Sunday he sat and listened to these two ladies gossip about this other lady. After a few minutes, one finally said, "Well, what can you expect, she's not even Norwegian!" This pastor, who says he has a reputation of being, let's say, outspoken, said to them, "Well, how would you feel if you realize that your new pastor isn't even a Scandinavian?"

He said the silence that followed was deafening.

I've heard many times about how northern European our churches are. If I remember, the ELCA is something like 95% + European descent.

Does your congregation have a certain, historic ethnic makeup? Do you belong to one that's changed to reflect a diversity of ethnicities, nationalities, races?
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5 years ago  ::  Oct 03, 2012 - 10:13AM #2
TOMinAZ
Posts: 76

I'll start.


My own congregation is located in a very affluent part of the Tucson metropolitan area. I'd have to say it's probably 99% white.


However, one Sunday awhile ago, the pastor asked for a show of hands of those with Scandinavian heritage. I'd say about 1/4 of the people raised their hands. Then he asked for the Germans. Again, maybe just over 1/4. About 1/2 the congregation falls outside the historic genetic makeup of a Lutheran church.


I found it interesting. The fact we're in the Southwest must be a factor.


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5 years ago  ::  Oct 04, 2012 - 10:20AM #3
TOMinAZ
Posts: 76

The last congregation I belonged to in Brooklyn NY was a small one, and had a long history of Scandinavian membership. The altar had "Hellig Hellig Hellig" (Holy Holy Holy in Danish/Norwegian) engraved on the front. Our library had lots of Danish books in it. But, by the 1980's the neighborhood had changed. What once was the "Lutefisk Ghetto" was turning into New York's second Chinatown.


One Sunday, I was going up for communion, and I hadn't noticed this older Asian lady in the middle of the aisle, on a prayer rug, face down facing the front. It was the first time I had seen her, being new to the congregation at the time. She stayed prostrate on this rug during the whole communion time. I asked my pew neighbors, who told me she shows up once in awhile.


After the service, I asked the pastor about her. He told me that she was waiting for a Buddhist temple to open nearby someday, she was from Cambodia, and she liked to attend here when she could. She had fled the war in the 1970's, had an interesting story.


The next time I saw her, I decided to talk to her during coffee time. Her English was fairly good, she had the most charming way of talking, a real delight to listen to. I asked her why she spend the whole time we went for communion face down on the rug. What she told me just blew me away.


She told me that she understood that in communion, Christ is present in the bread and wine. When we were going up to partake, she felt she needed to show respect for our God who was there with us.


A Cambodian Buddhist had just reminded me of the awesome Presence of Christ during the meal. I was speechless.


Soon afterwards, she starting bringing an altar cloth she was enbroidering for the new temple she hoped would come soon. She's do the bead work while chatting with ladies. Then I noticed that some of the ladies started helping her with it. There they sat together, drinking coffee, chatting, laughing. I can't think of a better way of interfaith dialogue, honestly.


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5 years ago  ::  Oct 04, 2012 - 10:59AM #4
WannabeTheo
Posts: 401

Tom,


Did they ever build the Buddhist temple?

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5 years ago  ::  Oct 04, 2012 - 11:06AM #5
WannabeTheo
Posts: 401

My congregation in Minneapolis is ELCA, formerly LCA.  We are rather proud of the fact that we were one of the first English speaking Lutheran congregations west of the Mississippi, so from day one there was never an emphasis on any one ethnicity.  Of course, back in the day that meant we accepted all kinds of people, both Swedish and Norwegian! Wink


I don't know for sure, but I get the impression we skew Norwegian.  Maybe that is just because the Norwegians are more outspoken, but that's the impression I get.  Though I'm sure there are plenty of Swedes too.  And also Germans, considering the number of former LCMS'ers, including myself, the pastor, the former council president, ...  I can also think of at least one from Icelandic descent.


But outside Northern European background, some, but not much.  I'd say our diversity lies in other areas.  We have a great diversity of ages, including some of the tougher ages like pre-family 20/30 somethings.  Also, a diversity of socio-economic background, and educational backgrounds/levels.


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5 years ago  ::  Oct 04, 2012 - 12:23PM #6
teilhard
Posts: 53,304

White ...


Mostly Middle Class ...


Aging ...

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5 years ago  ::  Oct 04, 2012 - 1:10PM #7
TOMinAZ
Posts: 76

Oct 4, 2012 -- 10:59AM, WannabeTheo wrote:


Tom,


Did they ever build the Buddhist temple?




I see that they have built several, but I'm not sure they built one she was looking for. Most of them I think are more Chinese.


I would like to think that she saw it opened in her lifetime. This was probably almost 30 years ago, I would be surprised if she's still alive today. She was probably in her late 70's back then.


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5 years ago  ::  Oct 06, 2012 - 11:18PM #8
TomeReader
Posts: 70

My church started as an Augustana Synod church in 1953 or so. Being in the Phoenix suburbs and only a couple of blocks from Arizona State University (Arizona State College at that time), its character quickly changed to welcoming non-Swedes and even an Italian family. The members that joined in the 50s and 60s are predominantly MidWest Scandinavians and Germans. But now there's a little of everything including a student member who's half Irish and half Korean. We've had African-American members, an Ethiopian-American family, etc. Still predominantly white though. Partly that's because most Hispanic Lutherans in the area attend Lutheran churches that specialize in Hispanic ministry. Not many African-American Lutherans in these parts.


Lynn


Univesity Lutheran Church and Luther Campus Ministry
Tempe, AZ

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5 years ago  ::  Oct 08, 2012 - 9:29AM #9
TOMinAZ
Posts: 76

Oh! I didn't know you were part of LCM-ASU. I've known the ministry associate just about his whole life. I worshipped there one Sunday about 8 or 9 years ago. Lovely place.


I imagine Campus Ministries would attract a somewhat wider cross section of people. The only ones I've interacted with have been the ones in Arizona and San Diego.


We have a congregation here that is Hispanic, I went to a service there many years ago. I really should go again sometime.


Back in Brooklyn, my old neighborhood has an Arabic congregation, from what I see on the church locator at elca.org. I bet that would be interesting, also.


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5 years ago  ::  Oct 12, 2012 - 2:31PM #10
Sherylyn
Posts: 63

I'm in South Louisiana. Most of our "cradle" Lutherans are of German heritage from Texas, but we have a handful of Scandinavians from the midwest.


But probably half of our members aren't cradle Lutherans. A lot are former Catholics (the area is about 65% Catholic, 25% Baptist, and 10% everything else), many of whom have Cajun heritage, and some come from other mainline traditions, but yes, we skew heavily toward European heritage. Compared to most predominantly white congregations here, though, we are positively diverse. We have about 6 African-American families, and two Asian familes (out of about 150 families). We also have a couple Lebanese folks who worship with us, because there are no Maronite Rite Catholic churches around, and they are more comfortable with us than with Roman Catholic churches for some reason.

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