Sunday, October 25, 2015

Blackish: Making a Case for Multi-Ethinic Churches

I'm not much of a television-viewer -- except evening news and "The Voice". I am front-and-center for Pharrell, Blake, Adam and Gwen, whenever possible. Make no mistake about it.

But there are a few shows I like to catch every now and then. ABC's "Blackish" is one of those shows.

Now some of you are nodding your heads right now, because you love this crazy, quirky show. Others are shaking your head adamantly and have lost all respect for me for wasting a full half-hour on this crazy, quirky show.

Wherever you are on the "Blackish" spectrum of love and hate, hear me out for at least the end of this blog. Because last Wednesday's episode spoke volumes about a weekly phenomenon rarely addressed in today's television world.

Last Wednesday "Blackish" went to church.

Yes, you heard (or read) that right. CHURCH.

I won't rehash the entire episode in a day and age when television can be watched on-demand multiple ways. Check it out for yourself when you can. But I did want to share a few thoughts that came to mind while I watched this episode titled "Churched".

I'll share them here, if you will allow...

1. "Black Church" and "White Church" are Different

Now I know I risk sounding stereotypical here, and I promise that's not my intent. After all, I grew up in a predominantly Black church in Baltimore where we sang traditional hymns accompanied by a classically-trained organist. We learned choir music the old-fashioned way, using sheet music to learn the lyrics and our parts. We seldom clapped in church, and our service was very quiet. Church began at 11 and ended by 12:15.

You can imagine I was completely overwhelmed the first time I practiced with a more traditional Black church choir, where the choir director sang out each part so we could learn the song's lyrics and melody.

So believe me, I know there are all types of Black churches and White churches.

However, there are some commonalities amongst most traditional Black and White churches. And "Blackish" had a field day showcasing an exaggerated parody around this.

The White church service was spirited, and had a worship leader that led the congregation in happy, uplifting music. The service was over in 45 minutes. The sermon was structured and easy to follow - a typical 3-point message. The following Sunday, main characters Dre and Bow struggled with sitting through a nearly-identical service to the previous week's.

The Black church, on the other hand, was a different experience altogether. A huge choir donning purple choir robes performed song after song after song... The service lasted for nearly five hours, the sermon multi-layered and unapologetically long. Church announcements -- delivered by Dre's mother Ruby -- went on for nearly an hour.

During the service, Dre and Bow's White friend marvels, "Wow, six songs!"

"Each one more uplifting than the last," Bow responds, attempting to maintain a smile.

I chuckled over the exaggerations, but found myself nodding a lot too. Traditionally our churches are just different. And different isn't bad. It's just different.

2. Multi-ethnic churches can offer a middle ground

My husband Anthony and I served in multi-ethnic churches for 15 years. We love the multi-ethic church, so I know I'm partial. Yet one thing I love about racially-diverse churches is the blending of the cultures - evident in preaching styles and worship music. It's cool to hear Israel Houghton, Donnie McClurkin and Chris Tomlin all in one worship set.  Service length is usually a happy medium too -- somewhere in the 1 1/2 hour range.

Though this melding of cultures can have its share of hits and misses, the best benefit is doing life with people who look a little different, live a little differently and sometimes cook a little differently. Multi-ethnic church can offer a taste of heaven, where "every nation and tribe and people and tongue"* will worship God together forever and ever.

3. Finding a good church can be challenging

I found myself saying amen to Dre and Bow's conclusion after attending the Black church and the White church. Thinking they'd give up on going to church altogether, they concluded that it would take some time to find the best-fitted church for their family. This is so true. While there's no perfect church for any one person or family, there is certainly a church that will best fit our personalities and spiritual needs.

Whether it's a Black church, a White church or a multi-ethnic church somewhere in-between, it often takes a while to find it.

But it's certainly worth the search.

* Revelation 7:9

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