“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb
This year’s Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference was about connections for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. We had the opportunity to travel to Detroit, MI last week in order to hear from others who are doing work to develop their communities into places where all people can thrive. The conference’s theme was “Resilience,” based on 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” The four days were a reminder to stay committed to the work despite the exhaustion that it brings. Those four days were also a celebration of the family that we have in God’s kingdom.
There were many chances to hear people from diverse backgrounds speak about their experience in the work of bringing God’s kingdom to earth. And, to be completely honest, it seemed like all of the speakers were in the same place of being tired. Tired of constantly having to prove their experience, tired of convincing predominately white institutions why diversity is important, tired of not having a fully-realized seat at the table.
Michelle Higgins, one of the conference’s keynote speakers and a St. Louis native, asked the question, “What will you do when you get tired?” She spoke the truth, saying that many are tired because we are trying to be the King; we try to be the rulers of our own kingdom and don’t let the limitless power of God move through us to do His work. She reminded us that we have to rely on the King, not on ourselves. That was a theme throughout the conference. Pastor Christopher Brooks spoke on the fact that flourishing takes collaboration. Marvin Daniels proclaimed truth when he said, “Kingdom sized vision calls for kingdom sized partnerships.”
This is not work that we can do alone. Pastor Brooks says that we often fall into the sin of isolationism. In an individualistic society, most of us probably don’t see anything wrong with the idea that we have to do everything on our own. But that is directly in conflict with the idea of God’s kingdom. The CCDA understands this mandate and makes sure that attendees connect with each other throughout the conference by setting aside times for networking.
Pedro Valentin and I took full advantage of this opportunity and spent the majority of our time connecting with practitioners of justice and racial reconciliation from across the country who are actively working to make diversity an important aspect of the organizations they work with. Our office understands the importance of collaboration as we strive to get every department on campus dialoguing about issues of diversity and inclusion. We spoke to a range of people, from those who work in predominantly white faith institutions to scholars who study mass incarceration from a Christian lens.
Overall, the weekend was one that centered around connecting with people who encouraged and collaborated on what could work with what the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is doing here at Greenville University. We heard about the fact that resilience is not about carrying the work all on our shoulders. It is about keeping hold of the idea that God has done the work for us and that our task is to just follow him in that work. Will you join us in creating an environment where every person who steps onto our campus can thrive? Will you answer the call to pursue God’s justice in the world?