Mutual interest, respect and trust are of utmost importance to any ministry partnership. We must be able to trust one another. And we must always treat one another with respect especially in the midst of our cultural, personal, and theological differences, reminding ourselves of who it is that draws us together, who it is we represent, and whose ways we are meant to reflect.
More than simply enduring one another’s presence or tolerating our cultural differences, a healthier way of living and partnering together requires that we be willing to engage one another and learn from one another; that we strive to understand one another, develop an awareness and appreciation for each other’s cultural traditions and sensitivities, and learn one another’s ways. And we must be willing to have our own cultural assumptions and prejudices challenged.
As mutual supporters and partners in ministry, we must never seek to hide our true intentions or take advantage of one another. But we must always trust that openness, honesty, integrity and transparency will better serve to strengthen our bond and reinforce our commitment to one another as these values help to create a climate of trust rather than suspicion.
Communication in a multicultural, multilingual setting is always a challenge. There will be times when what we say and how the other person hears it will be radically different. Seeking and speaking the truth in love, we must not be afraid to ask one another the hard questions nor be afraid to risk hurting one another’s feelings. In a multicultural setting it is inevitable that feelings will get hurt no matter how hard we try to guard against it. The question isn’t “if” this will happen but how we will respond to one another “when” this happens. Like in any family, when we hurt one another or do something that causes people offense, we must be quick to take responsibility and reach out with a sincere apology, seeking reconciliation and trusting that forgiveness will flow just as quickly.
The church is called to be both a sign and an instrument of the kingdom of God. We are called to be God’s agent in the world showing and sharing the love, grace, and mercy of God in Christ to a broken and hurting world. People are supposed to be able to look to us and say “This is what the kingdom of God looks like.”
It is my prayer that when people look at our congregation sharing our building and working in partnership with our brothers and sisters from different cultures, they will see in us a reflection of God’s inclusive love and compassion. We will be a source of light and hope in the world and a reflection of Jesus’ words and deeds; truly the body of Christ.