Thursday, September 27, 2012

Black and White

Last week was a first for me.  I completed an exhilarating teaching week - a Doctor of Ministry intensive (well named) with a group of 11 pastors.  This was nothing new.  However, this time 10 of them were African-Americans.   Ages ranged from upper 20's to upper 60's; from Washington DC to Texas with Chicago in the middle; denominational spread covered historic mainstream - Lutheran, AME - through Baptist, to Pentecostal and a church plant.  Church sizes were similarly spread over a wide spectrum.  I guess years of preaching experience added together amounted to several hundred years!
I have yet to see their evaluations but I can share my first reflections.
  • It is sobering to be in a minority of two.  To realize that nearly everyone else has a common culture and distinctive preaching history which markedly contrasts with the white-dominated settings of my daily life. Occasionally, I made statements that were met by amused reactions that while this might be so in the white church it did not hold true in their own.  Talk about the levels of pastor's authority, or about focusing on the cross to the neglect of the resurrection (too often common in the white church) revealed how different it is for them.  Even more, when they shared their  urban stories and experiences of oppression,  I felt miles apart. Why was it sobering? - because to be in the minority is how most of these, my new friends, feel in my world, most of the time.
  • Yet, my overwhelming experience in the week was of utter acceptance by the group with the strongest expressions of affirmation and involvement.  When I opened the course with Scripture I was immediately enveloped by echoing 'Amens', 'Thank you Lord' ,'Oh, my Lord", as they leaned forward intently not missing a word.  That responsiveness never let  up. What a difference it makes when others express themselves so clearly and enthusiastically!   One set book involved a lively dialog between E.K. Bailey and Warren Wiersbe (Black and White).  Wiersbe admits how much white preachers have to learn from the holistic ministry of black pastors.  Oh yes! As the other white (Lutheran) pastor put it -'We lived that dialog this week!' 
  • The wonder of expressive faith.  Yes, the sheer contagion of unashamed witness is wonderful.  When each student preached in class the levels of engagement were off the charts.  I commented once to the famous black preacher Robert Smith (of Beeson Seminary) about how frozen and mute many white congregations are. "But I know there are feelings inside you white folks even if you don't show it", he said.   Yet, what a difference if we could show more emotion?
As you can tell, I was so grateful for my immersion into such a warm, lively, gracious group where I learned so much.  Privilege is an over-used word but it's right for this past week.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Quicke, I am so glad to see that you are teaching. I feared in looking at an earlier blog that you had stepped aside or had severely reduced your teaching load at NTS. Are you moving into semi-retirement? Thanks for all you taught me.

michael quicke said...

Thanks for your concern and kind word, Chris. No, I shall keep teaching at Northern but concentrate classes during the Fall term so that I can spend more time with family in the UK (and undertake other ministry, as I will be doing through 2013). I guess it is nudging towards retirement but still gives me wonderful opportunities. Blessings on your ministry.