Below is an email that I received recently from a young woman in our church. It was really encouraging to me and wanted to share it with our church and with others of you out there who have a desire to see our churches grow in diversity as a reflection of God’s kingdom.
I wanted to thank you for your sermon on Saturday, March 19th. There was one particular aspect of the message that stood out to me and since I’m an African American female… You hit the nail on the head for me and my relationship with The Summit.
I was in search of a church home in Durham and visited many different churches in the area. I went to where all the black people go in Durham… but at the suggestion of my friend and a student of mine I came to The Summit. Now, my first reaction was quite hesitant simply because the praise and worship at my home church in Portsmouth, VA and at the Summit are about as different as Beyonce and Mother Theresa. (editor’s comment: are we really the Mother Theresa in this analogy? )
I mentioned this to my friend who is also African American and she agreed but encouraged me to think more about the message. The thing was J.D., is that after leaving The Summit that day it was the first time in a very long time that I actually listened to and heard the message. It was the first time that I really left church with more questions and a yearning to discuss the message with other people. That struck me as different but it struck me as the way that I always thought I was supposed to feel after hearing the word of God.
Needless to say, I decided to come back to The Summit and I don’t know what happened in choir rehearsal but they tore it up on Sunday and the crowd seemed a bit more interactive and responsive and I thought, okay, I can get down with this but really I was just super excited to hear what was going to happen next in the Bible. I found myself leaving church every Sunday and meeting up with a friend or calling my mom and sharing what I’d learned and how the word was directly applicable to my life and my circumstances. My friends were shocked but excited and my mom just kept saying “Praise the Lord” coupled with, “You like going to church with all those white people?” Bless her heart.
The praise and worship at The Summit has grown on me quite a bit and now I have favorite songs and my Pandora stations are sprinkled with Chris Tomlin. I’m a little black girl from the hood who for some reason God has always placed in “white” environments. I went to William & Mary for undergrad, University of Maryland for graduate school and now I work at Duke University with fraternity and sorority life. I’m always surrounded by white people and that is totally fine BUT I had never thought that I would ever find myself in that environment when it comes to church. I’ve learned that it isn’t about the color of the pastor but am I getting the word, am I hearing the gospel, am I learning and growing in my relationship with Christ and the answer to all of those questions since I’ve been attending The Summit is yes.
I’m the only person of color in my small group, I’m on First Impressions and every once in a while there is a person of color who serves with me but I don’t care because I know or at least I hope that we are all there for the same reason. I think that is the way Jesus would have wanted it.
The Lord has allowed The Summit, through His word, to create a change in me. I have become a much calmer person since I really started digesting the word of God. I’ve become prayerful, I’ve become a little bit of a God nerd in the sense that I’m reading all these books to learn more about Him. I never thought I’d read anything by C.S. Lewis beyond The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and that was in 5th grade. I want to know more about Him and I want to thank him and praise Him for all that he has done for me and those around me. I am learning to trust in Him and I have huge trust issues.
When I first started coming to the church there were 2 guest pastors who visited and at that time I was still trying to figure out this large church and whether or not I was welcome at the church as an African American and both of the guest pastors were African American and I was like, “Okay J.D. I see you–you are down with the brothers.” That was remarkably refreshing and relieving. Also, now you have Omar and me and my friend were super excited about that and really want to be a part of helping him and his beautiful wife in the development of a new branch of Brier Creek. Their presence will serve as an invitation to other people of color. That’s just how it works. We like to have a successful model before we roll in to the situation.
Sadly, I will be leaving the church soon because I have a new opportunity in Nashville, TN at Vanderbilt University. I’m super excited to move on to the next stage in my journey but I’m sad to be leaving The Summit. I’ve met some really nice people and my heart has been reopened to the word of God and He put The Summit in my life for that reason. Now, the goal is to go to Nashville and continue my spiritual journey in a new place.
That is all. Hope all of that made sense. May is coming too soon and I was just reflecting on how great The Summit has been for me at this time in my life and I just really appreciate what you and the rest of the church staff are doing here in the Triangle. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to meet you but here is a huge high five and an awkward church hug.