February is Black History Month. Here are resources for churches that seek to be intentional about diversity.
Coordinator of Latinx Ministries
In a recent internet search, I came across an art project by Sam Van Aken called Tree of 40 Fruit. For this project, Van Aken grafts 40 different kinds of fruit to one tree to create a tree that will produce 40 varieties of fruit. I thought this project was a good illustration for the topic of diversity.
Diversity is important and the benefits of it are many. In the case of the Tree of 40 Fruit, Van Aken realized that his art project was more than just creating aesthetically pleasing trees, it was about preserving the different varieties of fruit, sharing the stories of the different varieties, and learning more about the history and culture of this country. In setting out to create diverse fruit trees, he has uncovered so much more. You can watch Van Aken’s Ted Talk to learn more about the project.
The Tree of the 40 Fruit project reminds me of the creation story in Genesis. In the creation story, God creates a variety of plants and animals. In Genesis chapter one it says that God looked at what God created, and God saw that it was good. God saw that it was good seven times. The seventh time God said what was created “was very good” (Genesis 1: 31). God created diversity and it was good.
Diversity is good and can lead to many things, like innovation, creativity, cultural understanding, and unity. True diversity is about valuing differences. There are many ways that churches can value differences. Churches can value differences by being intentional about diversity and celebrating it.
Churches can celebrate diversity in many ways. This month is Black History Month. Your church can celebrate Black History Month in your worship services, Bible studies, book groups, and more. The United Methodist Women have curated a list of resources to help churches celebrate Black History Month. Here is the link to the resource list. Churches can also celebrate diversity by choosing materials for worship and for Bible studies that are created by diverse people. Celebrate diverse voices and diverse stories.
Churches also should be intentional about diversity. First United Methodist Church of Ypsilanti used to have a Diversity Committee. The committee helped plan events for the church and to make sure that the church was being intentional. Churches can also do a diversity audit that help them realize where they are and where they need to go to see their vision come to realization.
Sam Van Aken says in his TedTalk How One Grows 40 Different Fruit that, “I decided on the number 40 for the Tree of 40 Fruit because it’s found throughout Western religion as not the quantifiable dozen and not the infinite but a number that’s beyond counting. It’s a bounty or a multitude.”
Diversity is bountiful. Diversity is good. In these 40 days of Lent, and beyond, let us celebrate and be intentional about valuing the differences that make a difference.