The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Extend the welcome

When I was a child, my congregation wooed an urban pastor by billing itself as multicultural. Apparently, a big deal was made over the congregation's black members.

There was one black family — mine. Needless to say, the pastor arrived feeling a bit misled. My dad and we children were actually the only black people, my mom being of Scottish, English, Swedish and Irish heritage.

Over the years, I grew into an identity that embraced the breadth of these backgrounds, and I still consider myself a Lutheran. Yet, it's never that simple. While running errands recently, two women approached me. One pointed at my "Old Lutheran" sweatshirt and asked, "Why are you wearing that?"

"I'm a Lutheran," I said.

She was incredulous: "You are?"

I smiled brightly and continued with my business — it wasn't the first time my Lutheranism had been challenged. While some whites are surprised to meet a "black Lutheran," my black relatives scoff at my religious upbringing. I've fit in and I've been an outsider; I am black, with a longing for a hot dish.

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

text size:

this page: email | print

February issue


Embracing diversity