Bishops' Study Day Explores Intercultural Mission and Ministry

On 9 May, clergy and lay leaders from across the diocese gathered in Belgrave for a Bishops’ Study Day on the theme of Intercultural Communities, led by Dr Harvey Kwiyani, a lecturer in African Christianity, and Founder and Director of Missio Africanus, an intercultural mission training initiative.

The day started with worship led by Jessie Tang, our Intercultural Ministry Director, and members of our Intercultural Worshipping Communities, with singing in Farsi and English.

Bishop Saju then introduced some of the leaders involved in our Intercultural Worshipping Communities – Shobha Ghosa, Kat Gibson and Jessie – who shared their experiences of seeing God at work in and through intercultural ministry, as well as some of the challenges involved.

In his first keynote address, Dr Kwiyani spoke about the cross-cultural nature of the gospel, starting with Jesus’s experience of displacement and living as a member of a marginalised community, and the Church being a community of many nations, identities and languages. God’s plan for the gospel to be reach all nations, Dr Kwiyani emphasised, required Jesus’ first disciples – and us today – to cross cultures.

Dr Kwiyani also described how we are now in “an era of World Christianity” as it is no longer a religion primarily associated with, or ‘owned by’ the West. Noting the particularly diverse context of Leicester, Dr Kwiyani stressed that our diocese has an opportunity to offer a gift to the wider church as it explores intercultural worship. 

The day also included three workshops: one led by Bishop Martyn on Intercultural Gift Exchange; one led by three leaders from our Intercultural Worshipping Communities on ‘The Journey from Ethno-Centric to Ethno-Relative’ with practical examples from their own contexts; and "How to Minister in a Racially Literate Way", led by Natasha Boyce, Director of Racial Justice Education, who following her own teaching career, delivers racial literacy and social justice training in primary and secondary schools across Leicester and Leicestershire. These workshops, together with a final keynote from Dr Kwiyani were an invitation for everyone to become aware of our cultural perceptions, to consider what assumptions we make about others, and imagine what might we gain from making space for those who worship Christ in ways which differ from our own.

To understand more about why our Intercultural Communities strategic priority is so important for being able to serve our communities, those attending the Study Day spent some time exploring the Parish of the Resurrection in Belgrave, one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse areas in England and one of the largest parishes, with a population of 52,045.

Before ended in worship (this time with a song in Yoruba), Jessie Tang offered some final reflections. She shared that the diocese’s Intercultural Worshipping Communities programme is on track in seeing a growing number of people of UK Minority Ethnic and Global Majority Heritage backgrounds coming to church, being baptised and confirmed. But she also invited everyone to consider how they could embed an intercultural approach into their ministry and their personal lives.

“If you have a small number of people – or even none at all - who are of a different ethnic and cultural background to you in your church,” she asked, “how are you helping people to see that the gospel is for all nations? Often, without meaning to, we can give the impression that God is a White man because of the imagery we use in our churches.”

"Although not every parish in the diocese is as diverse as the Parish of the Resurrection, we know that the demographics across Leicester and Leicestershire are rapidly changing”, Jessie added “and as we are called to serve everyone in our parishes, being able to understand and communicate well with our neighbours, whatever their background, is an important part of our calling as Christians and as the Church of England.

"Becoming more intercultural is not just for our IWCs but for everyone because it is about God's vision for His people. If we as the Church are the Body of Christ, then to better know God, we need to know one another – share our gifts with those with whom we differ, and receive them as a gift to us in return.”

First published on: 16th May 2024
Powered by Church Edit