Sunday, August 17, 2008

They All Look Like Me

I've recently started attending services at a small church near my house. This is about the 5th week I've been there. People are starting to remember me, and I'm really beginning to like the place. That said though, I am conflicted. There are a myriad of reasons for my feelings, and if you're interested you can read the post from my other blog about this topic.

Still, I am willing to at least try. My pull towards church has been strong for a while, but until recently I haven't acted upon it. I can't say exactly why now is the time for me, I guess there are lots of reasons. Maybe I'm looking towards church as a possible answer to some of my sadness as of late, or maybe as a means toward establishing a church connection now for the sake of our future children?

Today it occurred to me as I was sitting amongst the congregation that everyone there looked exactly like me. Not exactly, of course, but what I mean is that they were all the same color. Ten years ago I wouldn't have given this a single fact I probably would have been comforted by the sameness. But having lived in a diverse area and become much more educated on the topic of diversity, I now find the sameness unsettling. This is to say absolutely nothing of the fact that we may very well adopt a baby who does not look exactly like us. Questions abound.

Is this a big deal if I don't make it one? Is it not common, even necessary, for churches to be somewhat polarized in the types of people they attract? Will our future baby, regardless of the color of his or her skin be completely accepted and welcomed at this church? Will he/she feel safe and at peace there as I hope? Will we be accepted as a less traditional family? Or will it be awkward and weird for everyone, most importantly our future child...which of course is the very last thing I want? Without anyone else to ask or even observe, how will I know the answers to these questions before it's too late? I feel strongly about attending a smaller, local church for lots of reasons. I've tried the huge, modern church thing and it simply isn't for me. But I wonder, is that type of church the only place I have hope of finding the diversity I now long for? I even think these issues are/would be different for someone who is already established at a church, versus someone like me who is starting from scratch.

I'm trying not to over-think this, but after I had that thought this morning, I can't seem to stop it rolling around in my head. I don't even know what's going to happen for us in terms of the child we adopt, but that begs another question. Would I desire and seek out diversity at a church on behalf of our baby even if he/she does look like us? That's one I'll have to ponder for a while, but regardless of the answer, more questions inevitably spring forth. If not, why not, and if so...still the question of what (if anything) to do about all this?

Definitely some serious food for thought!


Anonymous said...

Sorry in advance, this is going to be long...
I've heard a quote several times (not sure where it's from) that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week in the U.S. Meaning churches are the most segregated of U.S. institutions besides certain $$$$ country clubs :( Difference being, the country clubs are racist whereas with churches it's usually self-segregation. So, it is completely normal to notice this. My current church is different, but it is a "modern" church, though far from "huge" (150 people). In order to find a diverse church you should look for new churches (started in last 10 years or so), with young congregations, young pastors and a "modern" vibe. If you aren't into that, then it will be more difficult to find a traditional church that is diverse. But, that is OK because if it is a good church where the congregation strives for Christlikeness, then even if your kids are different they will embrace your little ones just as Christ embraced everyone regardless of race, nation, social status, etc. Another issue, though, is that some adoptive parents want their children of other races to have Christian role models of their own race and a church is a good place to find them (my aunt and uncle adopted an AA boy about 10 years ago and they have been attending an AA church in their hometown so that he will grow up with those role models), and it can require more effort on your part to find those role models if you don't go looking in a church, but not at all impossible! There are good books about transracial adoption that describe ways to make your social circle more diverse...Good Luck!

Debbie B said...

Lots of deep questions. Dave and I were actually talking about this very thing last week. He told me that the church they went to when he was little was ALL white. He didn't realize until they changed churches when he was 12 (to a more diverse church) that all white was not necessarily a good thing when it comes to church. Makes one wonder why no one of another color is there. If they don't feel comfortable or accepted.
Since you're starting from scratch my advice is to stay where you are comfortable. If you do adopt a child of another color then you can rethink it later. But need to be prepared for ugly looks from some people. You'll notice the looks for sure, one of you will. Sometimes Dave notices and sometimes I do.
No a big church is not necessary to find a diverse church. My old church had about 150-200 people and it was very diverse.

I will also add that I don't think it's wrong for you to want to find a diverse church if your child needs it. I've quickly realized that there are a lot of things that I want to change now that we are parents.

alicia said...

You know I have found the same thing in the churches around here. It is weird. I know here that there are so many different churches, like the chinese christian church, etc, its all broken and seperated. One of the reasons I am having troubles finding a church. I wish that there wasn't so much seperation, but in many places, thats just the way it is.

I hope you find your answer!

Rebekah said...

Great post, Melba. My husband and I have been in the same church for the past 7 years and the pastor is our youth leader (so we've been with him for 12+ years!). The thought of leaving our home is difficult...but I think it's essential if we receive a bi-racial or AA child. One thing that stood out most to me at one of our classes was this:

Change what you can. Who cares how it makes YOU feel, you're an adult, you can handle it. Make easy changes that will have lasting effects on your son/daughter.

That really resonated with me and we will probably make the church switch when the time comes. We may have to drive further and we may not like it as much, but if it makes baby feel more secure, than we'll do it.

Just my 2 cents!

Jessica said...

Hi Melba,

Long time reader and first time commenter!

It's an interesting topic I hadn't really thought of. We've been going to the same church for 6 years now, and I would NEVER have been able to get through IF and paper pregnancy and such without their love and support. I was raised in a church under 300 people, now we're somewhere with nearly 1,000 but it still feels very intimate.

I look around and there is only slight diversity. I guess the one thing that makes me feel pretty great is that there are several families that have adopted outside of their race, and the church actually sees those children as their own. Children in general are showered with love and affection, but it seems we make extra effort for families who have been created through adoption.

So, I would say find a church that is supportive and loving and accepting of your situation, that can give you the support you need. A church that will see your child as their own. And the young children there, no matter their race, will grow up with your child seeing them as a brother or sister...not really any different.

I don't know...I think it's so important to have love and support and if that is there, the diversity thing will work itself out. My two cents.

Good luck in the hunt for a church family. I think it will be well worth your time!