Have you come across Rupert Lazar before? What a man!
Rupert is the pastor of East Barnet Baptist Church, former President of the Baptist Union 2016 -2017 and former pastor of East Croydon Baptist Church. He was also the speaker at the South East Baptist Association leaders’ conference I attended this week.
I was chatting over breakfast with Rupert on Wednesday morning when he pulled me up short on a comment I made.
I told him that one of the strengths of RBC is its cultural diversity- I love that we are a multi-cultural church and much more like the church I grew up in in South London, compared to my last church in Devon.
“Multi-cultural? What do you mean’?” he asked me.
I explained that we were enriched and blessed by having people of so many different ethnic backgrounds worshipping together.
“Graham,” he said smiling brightly (I’m trying to capture how he talks here – I think I’ll just invite him to RBC to preach – that will be easier), “Every church is multi-cultural”.
“You are talking about ethnicity. Multi -cultural covers age, gender, background, class. The list goes on. And in that way every church is multi-cultural’. He went on to advise me not to only define multi-cultural in terms of ethnicity, but to understand there is a richness in celebrating the different ethnicities of the congregation in all areas of church life.
Before I came to RBC I read and excellent book on this: ‘Leading a Multi -Cultural Church’ by Malcolm Patten, which inspired, challenged and convicted me to intentionally develop and encourage this area of RBC life. Rupert was involved in the writing of this book as he and Malcolm are old friends who used to work together. His advice to me was to be intentionally multi-cultural all the time and not be afraid to try ideas that may help.
What could this look like at RBC?
The church I grew up in, Streatham Baptist Church, is a brilliant example of this. The worship group has gospel elements, African drumming and people move and dance and shout and sing. It’s beautiful. Imagine what our services could be like if we included Eastern European rhythms, South African instruments and Caribbean melodies?
What would our prayers be like if people prayed like they did when I lived in Zimbabwe- walking and shouting all at once? Glorious.
So, this is in one sense an apology. I haven’t done as much about this as I wanted to in my first six months here.
This is an apology if my language or turn of phrase has been clumsy or unintentionally offensive.
And a promise. We are a multi ethnic, multi-cultural church, let’s start representing this in our teams, leadership and decision making.
Interestingly enough the latest Baptist Union quarterly magazine is all about being a multi-cultural church. It’s worth a read if you follow this link.
See you on Sunday