The "Other"

Can a diverse church be unified?

Several years ago, my friend LaTonya invited me to a gospel concert at her church, a predominantly African American congregation. Admittedly my first thought was, Will I be the only person there who isn't black? Before I could voice my concern, LaTonya told me she'd invited several mutual friends, people I knew were of various ethnicities. Still, I was rather fixated on how out of place I was going to feel.

At the concert, the tiny section of LaTonya's friends stood out in the nearly homogeneous sea of faces. Maybe I was imagining, but I felt eyes fixed on me. I later told LaTonya my fears about being "The Other" in the room. Her words stick with me to this day: "Holly, I feel that way everywhere except my church." Then it hit me—LaTonya had been incredibly bold inviting me to her concert. At the place where she fit in comfortably, where she was "The Every," she'd differentiated herself by bringing her ethnically diverse group of friends.

Questions filled my head. Why had I felt out of place—in a church?! Did I not recognize that I was part of the body of Christ, and that the body is diverse? How could I be so clueless to not see that my buddy LaTonya regularly felt like The Other?

Unlike LaTonya, I'm usually The Every, a gal who's used to fitting in just about everywhere. I have a mix of Caucasian, Filipino, Mexican, and Native American ancestry. I've been a member of Asian and Chicano social groups, and I proudly wear my "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" button on St. Patrick's Day. I feel comfortable around people of every ethnicity.

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Holly Vicente Robaina
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