Friday, October 09, 2009

Keeping everybody happy

My thinking in the previous post regarding representation stems partly from the large group (plenary, I suppose) meetings that I have been part of in the last little while. I have always struggled with the idea that English speaking churches should sing a hymn or a song in an African language in every worship service in order to make 'black' people feel welcome. I couldn't really believe that people would tolerate a service that they didn't otherwise enjoy just because it had one African language song. But I can see the idea that it does show some desire to include.
What I see happening in MCSA meetings is the thought that if 75% of the meeting are 'black' then 75% of the worship should be from the black tradition or sometimes that 75% of the meeting should be conducted in an African language. I really can see the justice in this (and especially as we are sensitive to the fact that in the 'old days' there was little recognition given to traditional African worship styles). The problem is that the minority groups become uncomfortable with only 25% with which they can identify. So they stop participating and as they withdraw the percentage of the dominant group becomes larger, the remaining minority becomes even less comfortable, and you are left with a tiny group of diehards who would probably give their lives for Jesus.
I see this in my circuit. It has (roughly) 8 Xhosa-speaking churches, 2 Afrikaans-speaking and 2 English-speaking. As a result the quarterly leaders meetings have a strong Xhosa flavour and there is often virtually no English or Afrikaans spoken. And - the Afrikaans and English speaking people stop attending. I don't think that this is unique and in some cases it is African language speakers who are marginalised by English speakers.
It would be so much better if we struggled with this and found enough common ground that all parties could be happy at least 80% of the time.
I know this sounds critical. And there are many places where I think that common ground is found. I believe that all of us in the MCSA are on a journey to try to make this thing work.

1 comment:

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

But it's critical not only in your sense of the word. I'm surprised that this important issue hasn't been resolved. It's a matter of urgency.