Building Bridges in the Global City

Building Bridges in the Global City

By: Christina Adrien 

Global cities such as New York are filled with dense and diverse populations of people that live right next to each other, in the same neighborhood but hardly make any interaction with one another. These cities are highly divided and often communities exclude many who are not of their kind in terms of race, ethnicity, class etc.  Religious institutions have always played a crucial role in shaping social and cultural attitudes. Unfortunately, these faith communities are also segregated; divided according to race, ethnicity, sexuality and class. They sometimes fail to adequately reach out to others in the community that may not look, talk, act, or live like them.

The Project

Building Bridges is a New York Theological Seminary (NYTS) project in intercultural ministry funded by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and the Mark D. Hostetter and Alexander N. Habib Foundation. The project is led by the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion (CSPUR).

This grant funded program has taken 10 supervised ministry students and placed them in churches not only to do supervised ministry, but also to do research. Normally for supervised ministry the students get to pick their sites because this is the church they will be ministering in for the last 2 years of their study in the Masters of Divinity (M.Div) Program at NYTS. However, for the building bridges program,  CSPUR faculty and administration choose the sites for the students.

The Purpose

Why? Because the main point of the program is to put each student into a church of a different culture than their own. For example two African American students (one being myself) have been sent to Korean churches, European American students to African American churches, some went to an Hispanic, LGBT church, and…you get the idea. Therefore, the students were placed in congregations where he/she could be considered “the other”. This gives the students the opportunity to learn about different congregational cultures and practices and study the conditions that promote or inhibit inclusiveness in these congregations.

The Plan

As Supervised Ministry Researchers (SMR), we have to research their beliefs and practices and also share our own church practices and beliefs with the churches we are assigned to. We will also have the opportunity to preach, teach, lead worship and/or bible study at our assigned churches or do whatever else the pastor may assign us to do.  In a nutshell, we will;

1. Research, observe and learn about a new and different culture by gathering information, resources and strategies helpful for theological, racial, ethnic, and economic inclusiveness within religious communities

2. Promote a culture of inclusivity beyond the bounds of the seminary community and see how inclusive the congregations would be to us and us to them.

3. Become more inclusive in our ministries and also gain the basic skills of doing research.

4. Then after all that, hopefully, through our research and experience we will build a bridge between these cultures.

The Question

Now regardless of how great, nice, warm and “we are the world” this may sound and feel. Sometimes what you will get from an experiment like this is not nice and warm. People may get or receive some attitudes and of course a whole lot of questions, like “who are these people?”, “what do you want?” and “who do you think you are?” Tensions may flare and personalities and cultures will clash. So this makes me wonder. Is this whole inclusivity idea just that…a good idea? Is it realistic or idealistic? And can something like this really work, and if so, how? Or is segregation in any form the way we will always be and the way we will always live?

What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Building Bridges in the Global City

  1. Lori

    I think the church will always be segregated to some degree but this project will promote awareness and understanding among cultures and faiths.

  2. Nicole

    What I think is wonderful about CSPUR is that is a spiritual, sociological and acedemic exercise of sensitivity. Through being sensitive to people who are considered the “other” you push your personal definition. It changes your social lens to a social kaleidoscope!

  3. Melissa

    I think that the more that people are around other cultures, not only do we become more used to it, but we begin to welcome and value the opportunities. There is much to learn from all of God’s children – different perspectives to weave together, and traditions to celebrate. The more open we are to different people, the more connected we feel. The sense of umnbutu – I am because we are – establishes a sense of responsibility for each other. We begin to see Christ in each other – each of us working as parts of the body for the glory of God.

  4. Charlene WIngate

    This program is a great opportunity to allow people to demystify some of the preconceived ideas that they may have about others. While it is my belief that segregation is unlikely to be eradicated, this program is a giant step in the right direction.

  5. Bernar Rawls

    The idea of building or bridging an multiracial church or ministry cogeneration has been at work for over the last several decades, according to several books and articles. I want to concentrate on the book “United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation As an Answer to the Problem of Race” written in 2004 by A slew of authors: Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Michael O. Emerson, George Yancey, and Karen Chai Kim. I agree with this publication, in regards to as much as would like to have multiethnic, multi gender and even multi age congregation, there seems to be a deeper underlining obstacle such as race. I have found that Faith& the abilities to gather together, is based on the basis of a healing of security. Not all Christian faiths are willing to let their guards down in an effort to open them in. I would pose the question that “Is America ready for become a transparent faith community and deal with the past injustices without become judgmental of those to whom have went before you. This is regardless if we are speaking for the great city of New York, or the rural outskirts of the Midwest.

    1. Curtiss Paul DeYoung et al., United by Faith: the Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race (New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2004).


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