"So, you're the Urban Guy, eh?"
With my new job at Master's College and Seminary, a part of my portfolio is "Urban and Cultural Relations" along with Director of Recruiting and our FIRST YEAR Program. Now the latter two make sense to people but I often get questions about the urban part. A sample:
"So you go to the black churches?"
"What do you (meaning MCS) mean by urban?"
"Is this just for Toronto?"
"Can anyone be a rapper?" - Okay, that one has nothing to do with the role but I have been asked that question...
So here's a post to help bring clarity to the role and also how I feel about the current 'urban' landscape of MCS.
For starters, at graduation this past April our newly appointed President shared that his heart for our school's future was to be built upon diversity: To quote President Rich Janes: “a diverse school for diverse students for diverse situations (churches).” My role is based on his heart and vision, which is to see people of different settings and stories empowered to reach different types of people. For that vision, along with a great amount of love and respect for him & his family, the assembled team and the possibilities of greatness, I joined this team.
Secondly, Urban is more than black churches, thus releasing me from "you're the black guy for black churches" rhetoric. To us, urban is large metropolitan areas, each with their own various people needs and cultures. Urban is more than Downtown Toronto, thankfully! Urban includes Ottawa, Windsor, London, Montreal, Halifax, the GTA and more. Each of those cities have multi-cultural, multi-generational, multi-social churches and we want to see students from those cities and churches join us on campus to learn with us and hopefully to teach us too. Trust me, if I was only here to be the black guy for black churches, I wouldn't be in this job (ask our president!).
I say that because the last thing I would want is to be that guy. My former boss (another great man) would always say "We want to hire the best people and if they happen to be a different colour, based on our context that's a plus!" I was never the black guy at this church for our youth group. I was just Chris; the guy who loved seeing U2 live and grew up loving hip hop since he could say "Mic check 1-2, 1-2." The guy who wears both Toms and Air Force Ones. Skinny Jeans and Jordan Sweatshirts. Beanies and Flat brims. The guy with a beautiful mixed family.
I was able to be me. A mosaic of various influences. Never forgetting my roots and the struggles that come with it. But never living handcuffed to those struggles or worse off, using those struggle as an excuse or “raison d’etre”. And because of that release, I grew and developed as a leader and person.
And so at MCS, I do not plan to be that guy, the urban guy.
Because of my background, I can 'kick it' with my GTA friends with accents, bops, daps and all 'dat'. Being trill (Too real) isn’t a problem for me. But my dad always taught me that to be taken seriously, I should wear my clothes properly and always talk properly (Ed note: Some would say that this is "sounding white". I say the very notion of saying what one race should and could sound like is veering on ignorance, subjective prejudice and sad ill-informed stereotypes*.). Know this: I do love our smaller town students. Heck, my wife ONLY lived in small towns until she married me and spent 8 1/2 years in one of our fellowship's largest and most multi-cultural churches. That said I, like our President, desire to see students from London, Pickering, Whitby and other spots commute in and out to 780 Argyle Street to be equipped to go to diverse areas of ministry and minister effectively.
Diverse students in crocs, Jordans, flip flops, heals & no name shoes. Students from affluent homes and lower income homes, nuclear families, one parent families and blended families. Students raised in big churches, small churches, house churches, satellite churches. Students who are tall, short, small, big, city, farm. Students from Jane and Finch, Bay and Bloor, Moncton and Truro, New AND Old Sudbury. Students who have known Jesus since inception and those new to faith but with a deep call on them.
And yeah, maybe some more colour of all types won't hurt either.
All of that is diversity. All of that is culture.
And for THAT, I'm that guy.
#WEPICTURECHANGE & #WEPICTUREDIVERSITY
*Examples of ill-informed stereotypes with examples of the contrary:
Blacks don’t play “white sports”: PK Subban, Norris Trophy winner of the great Montreal Canadians. Venus and Serena. Tiger (as an athlete), Shani Davis (Gold Medal Speed Skater).
“I can’t dance/rap/have soul because I’m white”: Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Eminem, Adele, Becca Chase and so many more...
Asians can’t play ball: Linsanity.
Women shouldn’t preach or lead: Every female graduate of Master’s College and Seminary.