Advertisement

A community marked by fairness and respect [Commentary]

A community marked by fairness and respect [Commentary]
Parishioners pray at Bridgeway Community Church in 1999, when the church used space at Howard Community College (Howard County Times file)

Part of our series of essays from leaders imagining the future of Columbia.

As a young man fresh out of Bible college and a prestigious internship with one of the most influential Christian churches in the world, I knew what God had called me to do: to preach the gospel. But more than that, he implanted in me a vision of a church that may as well have been a unicorn at the time. A church that was truly multicultural. A church that was dynamic and creative and biblically sound. A church that would make people feel sad that they had to wait a week to come back. And I think Bridgeway Community Church has come pretty close to fulfilling that dream.

Advertisement

One might think that  deciding to plant such a church in a multicultural, diverse place like Columbiawould be a sort of "no brainer." Columbia is a beacon of diversity, both in terms of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. One need only walk through the beautiful waterfront or spend an afternoon in the mall to see people from every walk of life enjoying all that Columbia has to offer. But the reality was that bringing to life a vision such as mine was far from easy.

Because nothing like Bridgeway Community Church really existed, I met with a tremendous amount of pushback and skepticism from many people. And yet, the small, multicultural team I recruited parachuted in with flares and held strong to what we were doing. Today, Bridgeway is home to over 5,000 people representing over 52 different nations.

But what about tomorrow? What is the future of such a diverse, eclectic community? I believe that Columbia will continue to be a model of what it means to have an "uncommon table," a table set for people of differing ethnicities, diverse opinions and on different rungs of the economic ladder. As we see division, strife and racial tensions simmer beyond the boiling point, I believe Columbia will be looked upon to lead the nation in healing and reconciliation because it is a community created for such a time as this. The hearts of its residents are softened to "the other," the person who doesn't look, talk or vote like them. The soul of its citizenry is open to building bridges to one another. And the mind of this community is focused on healing and reconciliation. In short, I believe that Columbia will be a community rooted in "gracism," a term I coined as a solution to racism and the main ingredient of genuine inclusion. It combines the words "grace" and "racism." Racism is to think, act or speak negatively about someone solely based on color, class or culture. Grace is favor given to us that we can't earn, don't deserve and cannot repay. When you put them together a new term emerges: gracism. The unmerited favor given to others in spite of, and sometimes because of, color, class and/or culture. It means to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. It means to lift others up. It means honoring people who might otherwise never receive honor. It means making sure that everyone is treated fairly and with respect.

My dream is that gracism is deeply woven into the fiber of what Columbia stands for. As I look to the future of this community that has given so much to me and my family and my congregation, I see a people of inexhaustible grace, mercy and love. I dream of a community that will continue to grow both in population and in positivity. I see a town where citizens from all from across the globe find hope, healing and most importantly, a home. I am proud of the work that Columbia has done to build bridges across great divides of class and race and I pray that it will continue that great work in the years to come.



Advertisement
Advertisement