“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” –Hebrews 12:1-2
I came incognito on my first visit to Central Union. The congregation did not know I was considering a move to Honolulu. I sat in the back of the balcony and tried to take it all in. I have several memories of that first visit. One of the encouraging sights was the diversity in the congregation. In my Seattle church, less than 10% of the congregation were persons of color. As a person of color with a multiracial background, I took the racial and ethnic diversity of Central Union as a testimony to genuine aloha. And as a parent of multiracial children, I was very glad to know that my children would see a variety of backgrounds reflected in the faces of the congregation. Seeing ourselves in leaders and those we look up to is important.
This is why my heart sank a bit when I went into the history room.
The history room located off the balcony in the sanctuary includes portraits of all the past senior ministers. I love being reminded of the cloud of witnesses that surround us. However, when I look around the room, all I see are male, white faces.
The other day I was in the history room with another staff member who asked me, “Will they put your picture on the wall?”
“I don’t think so, I am an ‘acting’ senior minister. Pictures are given not by time invested but by designation. The other recent ‘acting’ senior ministers (Rev. Nancy Lockwood, Rev. George Scott) did not get their pictures up, only those who were ‘settled’.”
“Do you want your picture on the wall?”
My answer came quick, “Yes, but not for me.”
I explained to my companion that I want my picture on the wall because I want a hapa youth or a multiracial keiki to come in this room and see one face that looks like theirs. I want those little ones to know that they can have a place at the table of leadership; that God can call them to serve a fantastic church like this.
When the Apostle Paul talks about the great cloud of witnesses, he is trying to encourage us. The witnesses are meant to inspire us to hope that we too can “run with perseverance the race set before us.” It is much easier to trust in the encouragement and guidance of those who have gone before you when they have walked a road like yours. You hear differently those cheering for you when you know that they faced similar experiences and challenges as you. God gives us all the opportunity to encourage and inspire future generations. I do not know who God will call next to Central Union Church but I hope it will be someone who our young people can identify with and be inspired by. And may we take every opportunity to live a life of faith that can encourage the ones around us who God may be calling.