One of the questions, though, was a bit fuddly. Had we used the services of a racial/ethnic pastor in the previous year? Well, no, I suppose not, given what that peculiar term means within my oldline denomination. It's a code word for "not white," because as we know, there are "whites" and there are "racial/ethnics." Here is a categorical system that assumes that Slavs are the same as Scots are the same as the French are the same as Norwegians, but that draws no distinction between a Korean and a Kikuyu.
"White" is the norm. Everyone else is "other." It's a peculiar thing. Well meaning, yes. But also more than a little awkward to the ear.
I personally know African American pastors and Asian American pastors and Latino pastors, sure. They'd be great. But they've got gigs on Sunday, responsibilities to their congregations that would make it a challenge to get out to a small quasi-rural community. Or they're friends now far away, and my wee kirk can't afford to fly people out for a Sunday.
But undoubtedly, hearing preaching from different cultural traditions can be both important and awesome.
We wrestled with this on Session, as we tried to figure out a way we could do this without being embarrassingly obvious about bean-counting. There's a list of pastors who engage in supply preaching, but it doesn't make a point of categorizing them by racial/ethnicness.
Not that I am suggesting this. Lord help me, I'm not suggesting this.
"We'd love to have you preach," we'd say, "but we're looking for a racial/ethnic," we'd say. "Are you a racial/ethnic?" That feels faintly insulting. Well, more than faintly.
What human being wants to be a slot-filler, just a particular kind of bean to be counted?