We Are the Church Together: Cultural Diversity in Congregational Life

Foster, Charles R. and Theodore Brelsford. We Are the Church Together: Cultural Diversity in Congregational Life. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996.

In their book, We Are the Church Together, Charles Foster and Theodore Brelsford explore the dynamics of difference and diversity in three mainline Protestant congregations in the Atlanta (Georgia) area: Cedar Grove United Methodist Church, Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, and Northwoods United Methodist Church. Questions of congregational identity and educational patterns guide the interpretation and presentation of the study of these three multiracial, multiculturual and (in the case of Northwoods) multilingual Christian communities. Foster and Brelsford concur that congregations such as these serve as “intriguing instances of new ways of being community in contemporary society.” <p> The authors cluster the congregations’ stories around a series of “signs” which serve as “functional curriculum” embodying the communities’ deeply-held goals and beliefs. Embracing differences, celebrating multiplicity and living into ambiguity distinguish the voluntary commitments of these churches. Congregational beliefs and practices reveal four educational resources vital to forming these communities of diversity: (1) an event-centered educational ecology; (2) claiming traditions from the margins; (3) altering the power of dynamics; and (4) communal theologizing. An awareness of pluralism and dynamism shape these congregations’ distinctive practices of knowledge (epistemology), perception (hermeneutics) and meaning (faith). Foster and Brelsford celebrate the willingness of these churches to imagine new ways of being in, and creating, Christian community.