Where can a congregation go if they’re looking for resources to learn how to centre people from minority groups and go beyond merely including them?
What if you’re wanting to listen to the voices of the LGBTQ+ community in your congregation? Or people with disabilities? People affected by poverty or homelessness? People with mental illnesses? Indigenous people? Women? Who is God calling your congregation to pay attention to? The principles and practices outlined below, though developed for race relations, can be applied to any minority voice.
When I began working on this concept with my own congregation, I developed a five-step model, based on various writings I’ve read along the way.
How to centre minority voices:
- Stop talking. If you are a person of privilege (white, male, straight, settler, able-bodied, homeowner, etc.) in conversation with a person from a minority voice (person of colour, female, LGBTQ+, indigenous, disabled, homeless, etc.) and you are talking, then you are not listening. So, stop talking. That’s the first step.
- Listen. Whatever the topic at hand may be, ask the minority voice for their view and then listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt. Practise empathic listening, rather than merely active listening. In a congregation you may want to invite people of the minority community to lead a meeting to share their experiences.
- Take a knee. Relinquish any power you might have in the situation. That may be as simple as giving up a microphone and giving it to a voice that is normally ignored. Ask them to speak first and last. If you’re not sure how to relinquish your power in a given situation, directly ask the individual how you could do so. The act of asking the question is a step in the right direction.
- Educate yourself. Don’t expect the minority voice to be responsible for providing you with an education about their issues. Make an effort to educate yourself. Read articles or books written by authors who are from the communities that you want to focus on.
- Rise up and join them. Though this image has a quality of protest to it, it doesn’t need to be understood literally. Join an initiative, cause, or project either led by, or that focuses on, people on the margins. Join your voice with theirs. Promote their cause inside and outside of your congregation.
It comes down to no longer presuming that your own experience is normative for others who are different from you. Just love your neighbour as yourself.