Many of the congregations in the Saint Paul Area Synod have set goals for learning about and addressing issues of racism and racial justice. We look out through our stained glass windows and see neighborhoods that are increasingly diverse. Our children attend schools where multiple languages are spoken. We know that learning to live in a world of many cultures and religious traditions is a way of life for people of faith.
One of the important lessons I learned in my travels to the Iringa Diocese last June is that this is part of Christian faithfulness in Tanzania, too. Pastor Eva Msigwa, lead pastor at Tungamalenga Parish, was my best tutor. Together with her husband, Pastor Bryson Msigwa, and Pastor Paulo Masinga, who serves the preaching point at Mpalapande, Pastor Eva serves a mission field that includes members who are settled agriculturalists from the Hehe and Bene tribes and members who are nomadic pastoralists from the Maasai and Barabaig tribes. Daily she interacts with people from four distinct ethnic identities and navigates the differences that easily arise between those who grow farm crops and those who tend herds of sheep and goats.
Pastor Eva is about my height. Most of her parishioners tower over her in physical stature. But in my days with her, every single time her congregations gathered for worship, Pastor Eva began with this greeting - You are Hehe and Bene, Maasai and Barabaig. We are one in Jesus Christ. She said this with conviction and passion. As I watched the rich diversity of her parish be expressed in song and dance from all four tribes, each wearing clothing unique to their particular heritage, I saw that people believed what she said. We are unique. We are one in Christ.
Back in this synod, I watch for similar signs of respect for different races and cultures and language groups. In America we have a tendency to homogenize and diminish identities that do not reflect a white cultural background. We could all learn from Pastor Eva to both see and respect distinctive identities and gifts and yet say - We are one in Christ.
Bishop Patricia Lull
Saint Paul Area Synod, ELCA