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Mary Barry receives an anointing of oil from Victoria Hamilton, a pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Jacksonville, Fla., during Sunday morning worship. The congregation represents diversity in ethnicity, age and income.


Embracing diversity


Multicultural congregations share their successes, struggles By Karris Golden


D


on King believes that if a church is working right, it’s multicultural.


His congregation, Hope Lutheran,


fi ts the bill, refl ecting the diversity of its Cleveland Heights, Ohio, neigh- borhood. King doesn’t take credit— Hope was already a mix of European and African-American members when he was called as pastor in 1999. Hope started to transition from


all-white to multicultural in the 1970s following the integration of its neigh- borhood in the 1960s. “I inherited a congregation that looked a lot like the community,” King said. Over the years, King has taken


16 www.thelutheran.org


care to sustain Hope’s traditions of multicultural fellowship and out- reach. Hope houses an independent preschool and opens its space for a variety of community functions, including election polling. At those times, members are on hand to off er coff ee, treats and a warm welcome. “We want to be seen as an invit-


ing place,” King said. Hope’s glass entryway, for example, is covered with pictures from congregational events to “show what we do with our ministry.


(


‘We want to be seen as an inviting place.’


)


Anyone coming toward us sees the kind of congregation we are,” he said. Congregations like Hope con-


tribute to the ELCA’s number of members who identify as African/ black descent, Asian/Pacifi c Islander, Latino/Hispanic, Arab/Middle Eastern and American Indian/Alaska Native. Together these groups com- prise 4 percent of the denomination’s overall membership. An analysis of the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study ranked the ELCA as the second least racially diverse denomination out of 30 selected religious groups. ELCA leaders have expressed the


ROBERT SELF


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