I started getting teary eyed, as I listened to my friend talk. My friend is a kindergarten teacher, and he was sharing stories involving his students. It was halfway through the school year and his students had deeply connected with each other, more than any previous class. There was genuine caring and sharing, and no one acted like they were better than anyone else. Instead, the students: listened to each other’s ideas, supported each other, took turns in everyday roles in the classroom, encouraged each other to equally contribute to the classroom learning environment, made sure everyone was always included, even going so far as to cheer each other on.
It was such beautiful stories, of inclusion, which is what so deeply touched my heart! Here were little humans, role modeling to us grownups, how to go about inclusion in our every day. I must add that my friend also shared about the beautiful diversity that existed within his class: cultural, racial, gender, childhood developmental disorders, interests, skill levels, learning differences, and language differences.
A foundational heart posture to the work of racial inclusion is found in Philippians 2 (NIV) where it says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves.”
This past summer at Hillsong Conference, Pastor Lucinda (Dooley) brought a powerful word for all of us. As she was so brilliantly preaching, the Holy Spirit highlighted her words to increase our understanding of the importance of the church intentionally going after racial inclusion. Pastor Lucinda said the following:
“In the world so many things have tried to divide. But what I love is that God is reminding us that in Christ that there is a different way. We are all equals. In Christ, we are all children of God. He has no favorites. He loves everybody the same. The church is the only vehicle that brings everybody together as equal. The church plays a critical role because it is the one place that can unite us.”
These truths are the cornerstone of the work of racial inclusion. At the foot of the cross we are all equal, so why would that not be our everyday intentional heart posture, individually and collectively as the church. The work of racial inclusion is something we must do as the church plays a crucial role in demonstrating how to do racial inclusion well, to a hurting world. We easily could reference the second greatest commandment given to us by Jesus in Matthew 22 (NIV) where we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Something that my friend, Harry Phinda, the chair of the RDEI Committee said can also speak to our heart posture of racial (and ethnic) inclusion. Harry said, “we are not building church for just one person. We are building a church for everyone. We want Hillsong to be a diverse church.” This is profoundly beautiful. As is this picture given to us, in Revelation 7:9-10, where it says:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”
Inclusion in its simplest form is an authentic act of including someone. The students authentically included each other in their every day. We facilitate the act of authentic racial inclusion within the church when we intentionally: invite, listen to, learn from, promote, represent, share the platform with, are led by, care about, support, are allies with, advocate for, and empower people of every race and every ethnicity.
One beautiful metaphor for diversity and inclusion is the following: diversity is being invited to the dance, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is being able to pick the music you dance to. Although I’ve tried to come up with a parallel church analogy, I think for now, this metaphor paints a beautiful picture of authentic inclusion.
There is so much more information that could be shared as the work of inclusion and belonging is both simple and complex. But for now, I leave you with this thought. The work of racial inclusion is both something we must do, and it is something we get to do. We get to come together as the church and include every person, of every race and ethnicity. What an incredible honor and privilege, that will leave a beautiful legacy for those coming after!
When we think of the work of racial inclusion as both, it is empowering, and hope filled!
Maria Hansen-Quine, LASW, MSW, CSC
Hillsong Global Race Diversity and Inclusion Manager