Every year, I both love and dread World Communion Sunday. As a progressive Christian, I feel self-conscious about celebrating the diversity of the global Church given that I’m a privileged white woman serving a predominantly privileged white church. Most likely, my ancestors colonized and dominated people from places like Africa, Vietnam, and Latin America. So what right do I have to speak on behalf of those very cultures who are still on the margins today as a result of my ancestors' and culture’s actions -- to sing African songs, read Vietnamese poems, and butcher the pronunciation of the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish? These cultural treasures do not belong to me. At the same time, I want to lift up and honor our global siblings in a way that doesn’t involve social plagiarism, stereotypes, or irreverence.
It can be a fine line, however, between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Though it may seem like I'm splitting hairs or politicking here, I believe it’s an important question for us to consider as followers of Jesus. After all, Jesus showed honor and respect for people of other cultures when he praised the Samaritan, dined with Gentiles, and commissioned us to make disciples of all nations baptizing them into the Church, thereby including every culture and race into God’s family.
So how do we, like Jesus, respect people of different cultures on World Communion Sunday? This is one of the questions we'll be asking this Sunday because asking these questions out of concern for our global neighbor is part of what it means to live in worldwide communion. Although we may never land on clear or definitive answers, it is in asking that we honor Christ in the other and grow into the Family of God.