Does worship have a race problem?

This short post comes from Craig Borlase, the editor of Mission Worship magazine. As ever, it is here to stimulate thought (and more)…

There are times in life when each of us feels as though we are standing on solid ground. We know what we think and we know how the world works. We might not have filled in every blank space on the map, but we’re confident with what we’ve inked in already.

The day I interviewed Noel Robinson was not one of those days.

We were talking about the contrast between his experiences as a black man leading worship and mine as a white man participating in it. Within a few seconds it was obvious that my map of the world of worship was entirely out of date.

As Noel described his experiences I was left struggling for words. From the thinly-veiled hostility he had experienced from a delegate at a major Christian conference to my own fumbling explanation of why race was a minority issue, it was clear that we need to ask ourselves this vital – if awkward – question.

So, let’s ask it again: does worship have a race problem?

What if the answer to the question of a race problem in worship is ‘yes’?

And while you’re here, let’s ask a few follow-ons:

What does it mean if it does?

What if the answer to the question of a race problem in worship is ‘yes’?

Does that mean that we have failed? Does it mean that we ought to pack up and go home? Are we wandering into Amos 5 territory, priding ourselves on the quality of our worship while all the time ignoring the injustice within it? (and, yes, I do think that in this contect race is a justice-related issue).

Or does it matter less than we think? Is the act of acknowledging that we have a problem enough in itself to start the process of change? Is that all it takes to put it right, or are there other steps to be taken?

Or perhaps you think this needs to be taken in context. Is race just another in a long list of things the world of worship struggles with – like gender, age and style?

Or maybe – just maybe – you think the whole thing is getting blown out of proportion?

What do you guys think?

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