My way

This afternoon I went inside a little party supply shop down the street. I needed to purchase a dozen balloons for our recruitment today at the local grade school for the summer camps that next week’s Vacation to L.A. team will host. As I walked up and down the two cramped aisles of the tiny store while my balloons were being filled, I was struck by how our cultures differ so much in the ways we decorate, the kinds of gifts we give, etc. This store was filled with things I would simply never think to buy, and yet they are the total norm here among a large portion of my community.

It made me think about the ways that being a part of a multi-cultural (race and class) church is really hard. As petty as my party store observations felt, I realized that they underscore the much larger truth that cultures differ deeply, and few of us seem to really know what it means to lay our attachments to certain things aside and allow things to look and feel the way of the other.

Whether it is a worship service, a children’s program, a facility, or a sermon, we all have our opinions about how things should look and be done, and I have seen how differing over the small things can truly have the power to divide. When I think about the command to “love your neighbor as yourself”, I think about how I elevate my opinions about what is “good” or “right” which, if I am honest, usually means “better than…” As committed as we can be to acts of service to others, when it boils down to our true opinions and judgments, we save the greatest portion of love for ourselves.


  1. This is so true and not petty at all! I thought about these differences when I was at a crowded, all-Latino church service a few weeks ago. I grew up in an all-white Protestant church, and babies crying the entire time during the service would be completely unacceptable at my church, as would small children running up and down the aisles. People have different ideas about these things, however, which can make attempts at multi-culti churches challenging!

    …found you through Jesus Creed and am enjoying your writing…

  2. Thanks, Natalie!

    My African American pastor in Portland taught me about how to consider noisy babies in worship. He would single out young ones in the congregation sometimes and speak blessing to them, and tell all of us gathered that those cries and grunts and gurgles were part of how we were called to collectively worship. Now that I am a mother of small ones, I carry his words with me today, and how often they have brought me comfort as I have struggled sometimes with being “that mom”.

  3. Erika,
    I’m curious about the Vacation to LA team. Can you tell me more? Are they sponsored be some organization? or denomination?

  4. Linea,

    I am glad you asked! They are a team from Pasadena Covenant Church (our sister church), and every year a group assembles from that church–it varies each year–to come and minister with us for the week. They stay in our homes, do work projects all morning, run camps all afternoon, and in the evening we eat at different restaurants int he community, share in worship/teaching times, and on Friday night they sponsor a BBQ for all of the kids and families who have participated in the week’s camps.

    The model has proven so effective (on both ends!) that we have had other churches want to imitate it: my home church in Shoreline, Washington (Shoreline Covenant Church) came for Spring Break two years ago, and a Presbyterian Church from Downey is coming this August for the first time.

    Feel free to contact me through the contact form on this blog if you have other more specific questions I can answer!

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