Racial Ethnic and New Immigrant coaches trained to meet congregations’ culturally specific needs

Strategies enable congregations to move past cultural differences

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service
To help the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) move past cultural differences, 22 coaches from across the country met in Louisville, November 9-11, 2016, for Racial Ethnic & New Immigrant Coaches Training. (Photo by Gail Strange)

To help the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) move past cultural differences, 22 coaches from across the country met in Louisville, November 9-11, 2016, for Racial Ethnic & New Immigrant Coaches Training. (Photo by Gail Strange)

LOUISVILLE – The day following an unprecedented election of this nation’s 45th president, many were left wondering about the state of cultural diversity and immigrants in the U.S. To help the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) move past cultural differences, 22 coaches from across the country met in Louisville, November 9-11, 2016, for Racial Ethnic & New Immigrant coaches training. In this time of uncertainty, what is certain is that these coaches came inspired to serve God’s church.

The gathering of African, African American, Hispanic/Latino-a, Korean, Asian, Middle Eastern, Native American, and Portuguese-language coaches discussed how to address the culture- and language-specific needs of the racial ethnic and new immigrant congregations and leaders whom they will coach. The coaches will work in collaboration with mid council leaders and Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries staff to support the growth, sustainability, and transformation of new and existing racial ethnic, bilingual, and intercultural worshiping communities.

The majority of new worshiping communities are racial ethnic or new immigrant. The population of new worshiping communities is much more diverse than the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as a whole. Fifty-three percent of individuals who regularly participate in a new worshiping community are racial ethnic as compared to only eight percent of those who are members of a chartered PC(USA) congregation.

The Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, director of the Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, greeted the racial ethnic and new immigrant coaches, encouraging them to consider the changing landscape of the church. She shared Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries’ goal to create an awareness of institutional racism in the church, and create an environment where Presbyterians of different races and ethnicities, new immigrants to this country and women in congregations, mid councils and other groups can serve fully in ministry and leadership.

“I spoke with a colleague today who said that the church is better when it works against the culture, as opposed to serving the culture or the ‘hegemony,’ as theological Walter Brueggemann calls it, Hunter said. “One thing we do know is that we are called to serve the church, to speak out against racial injustice, and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ in many languages and in many cultures.”

The groups sang hymns in many languages including Portuguese, Korean, Arabic, Taiwanese, English and the language of the Nez Perce Native American tribe. They shared experiences and lifted up communities in prayer.

“Racial ethnic and new immigrant pastors and leaders often find themselves working in isolation, without people around them who understand the racial and cultural challenges they face,” suggested Sterling Morse, Coordinator for African American Intercultural Congregational Support. “These coaches can walk with church leaders and provide perspective and hope. The idea of a coach in the field to journey along with these church leaders can provide healing for them,” said Morse.

The leadership team for the coaches training included Sterling Morse, Mei Hui Lai, Moongil Cho, Irv Porter, Almir Dias, Magdy Girgis and Tim McAllister, all staff in Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries. Session topics included Working Effectively with Mid Councils, Using A Coaches Assessment Tool1001 New Worshiping Communities Grant Processes, and the Role of the Racial Ethnic & New Immigrant Coach.

With the increasing growth of racial ethnic and new immigrant worshiping communities in the PC(USA), the 221st General Assembly (2014) directed the Presbyterian Mission Agency to create a network of racial ethnic and new immigrant coaches trained to address the culturally specific needs of racial ethnic and new immigrant congregations.

Racial ethnic and new immigrant congregational leaders were recruited and invited to attend the inaugural Racial Ethnic and New Immigrants Coaches Training held November 11-13, 2015, in Greensboro, North Carolina. This second training, combined with the group trained in 2015, creates a network of approximately 40 coaches to offer assistance to mid councils in providing encouragement, support, and guidance to racial ethnic and new immigrant pastors, commissioned ruling elders, and congregations.

The racial ethnic and new immigrant coaches will work with church leaders to assist in developing new worshiping communities and to transform established congregations into healthy and vibrant churches.

 


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