I write this ... praying I don't say it wrong.
I am a white, middle-class pastor, born and raised in a nation in which I was, until recently, part of the dominant culture. This has meant that for the most part, I have a voice. I have power. I can access my rights with relative ease.
The air I breathe is abundant, clear,
and specifically designed for me.
So I can only imagine what it is to live otherwise.
And I MUST do the work of imagining it.
Countless times I have had wonderful people, good friends, male pastors, say to me, “Patti, I don’t think women-in-ministry is still an issue. I never see it.” And my (hopefully kind and gentle) response has been, “That’s because you are male. It doesn’t cross your path.”
They live in the same world as me,
but they breathe different air.
Years of ministry in “inner-city” contexts showed this small-town girl the unbelievable discrimination - individual and systemic - against people on the margins. Poor, less-educated, low-income. It’s real. What they deal with never crossed my path as a middle-class person. It is heartbreaking to see someone treated like crap because of their address (or lack of one). I’ve seen it happen.
They breathe different air.
When I moved to Quebec (which I love), I began to experience, just the tiniest bit, what it is to live in a world where I am not the dominant culture. My voice is not automatically heard. I work much harder to gain credibility.
The air I breathe is still abundant - but it’s less clear.
It’s not quite designed for me.
I work with, live among, am friends with, people at various stages in the Canadian immigration process. It has been a shock - embarrassingly - to realize how little I knew of that process. How difficult it is. How stressful it is. It simply never crossed my path.
Newcomers to Canada
breathe very different air.
Why do I say this?
Because it has become an important exercise for me to take these lessons and apply them to racism. I don’t see racism in my world, except when it explodes on my newsfeed. But why would I? I am white. It doesn’t cross my path. It’s not the air I breathe.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and probably closer than I know.
So I MUST - I MUST do the work of imagining. Of listening without answering too quickly. Of learning without defending myself. I need to intentionally offer space to those who wonder if a white, middle-class, Canadian-born pastor might allow room for their story of different air.
My God -
Help me to make space for those breathing different air.
Help me to examine my own heart
with humility, courage ... and healthy uncertainty.
I can’t imagine. But I must. Show me how.