A Journey Towards a Culturally-Inclusive Spiritual Formation Model
This article is a rationale for a project in its beginning stages but what we see as a necessary step to begin the journey. We invite you to be a part of the larger project towards a culturally-inclusive Christian spiritual formation model.
The benefits of diversity enrich an academic setting. Through the process of learning from each other’s cultural heritage and perspectives, we gain a broader worldview perspective and an opportunity to mature in our educational process. It is with regret that we realize from a variety of voices that often Christian groups and institutions are the most segregated settings in our society. As a result, we realize the need for the formational process to be culturally inclusive and reflect the diversity described in the Kingdom of God. We think of a culturally-inclusive model of spiritual formation as a beginning of a necessary journey.
Our Common Journey
God speaks to and through different cultures in different ways. If we are attempting to be culturally inclusive, we must each release our prejudices and come to the table as learners. We will experience Christ as the holy sacrament in the process, in the stirring of the stew, in the conversation around the preparations, in the breaking of the bread and the dialogue around the table. In that context our souls will be formed and our spirits shaped to be more Christ-like.
We begin to move toward culturally-inclusive spiritual formation as we let go of our cultural hegemony which serves as blinders and stop judging other spiritual formation practices by our own measuring stick. We need to understand the meaning of divergent practices from the perspective of the culture itself. Each culture has something to teach us about God, about itself and about ourselves as we come together as learners in a mutually respectful dialogue. Culturally-Inclusive formation will not “just happen;” we must be intentional about making space and creating/shaping a learning environment where it is likely to happen.
Our Community Journey
There are some changes in our learning communities that appear to be culturally-inclusive practices but simply take an old paradigm of one culture and change the racial ethnic make-up of the players. Culturally-inclusive practices cannot be simply Euro-American paradigms of spiritual formation and worship with “flavors” of other cultures. The dominant culture must seek first to understand and respect practices of Christian formation which are different from its own. The dominant culture must be open to radically changing existing paradigms. We cannot assume formation should continue to be an extension of adapted ancient practices from only European traditions.
We need to start with a genuine desire to understand and embrace Christian formational practices and outcomes that may be different than our own. Culturally inclusive formation requires hard work, time, effort, relationship building, intentional learning and it may mean sharing power or even giving it up. But, the possibilities for meaningful culturally inclusive formation make such sacrifices and the journey worthwhile.
Key Words or Concepts in Issues of Diversity & Spiritual Formation
These key words or concepts in issues of diversity and spiritual formation emerge from an extraction of core values from the key components of spiritual formation and diversity. The core values are the essence of what it means to have culturally-inclusive spiritual formation programming. Without these core values permeating the programs of spiritual formation they will not be culturally-inclusive.
Relationship Interconnected Enrich
Communal Context Integrated
Transcendent Synergism of sacred and secular
1. God takes initiative and seeks out a relationship with us—God initiates the process of Spiritual Formation.
2. Spirituality is always relational; it never takes place within a vacuum.
3. Spirituality is integrated into all areas of our lives.
4. Our culture, ethnicity and gender are not coincidental; they are intentional expressions of God’s self.
5. Culture is one of the vehicles through which we connect with God; gain greater insight into God’s character and way of being in the world.
6. “Religion” has been used to oppress people and sustain positions of power of the dominant group.
7. God is particularly concerned about the oppressed and marginalized people of the world.
Written by Naima Quarles-Burnley, College Ministries Intern 2007
The accumulated values, traditions norms, customs, arts, history, folklore, belief systems, languages, social relationships, institutions, communication patterns, cuisine and clothing of a group of people that define for them their general behavior and way of life. Culture is learned behavior.
Race is a social construction often used as a tool of oppression. A race of people are a portion of the human population distinguished from others by a range of genetic characteristics such as hair texture, skin and eye color, facial features, body build, blood group, and ancestry. Conceptions of race and racial groupings have not been regarded as technically precise because of the highly politicized ways in which they have been used.
A sense of being different than other groups because of cultural tradition, ancestry, national origin, history, or religion.
Naima Quarles-Burnley, College Ministries Intern 2007