New York, like many major cities, is a melting pot of accents, nationalities, cultures and races. This diversity is amazing and beautiful – its one of the things that I love about being in a big city. But this diversity is also something that invites conflict. It is something that we as human beings always seem to struggle with and communicate well.
Living 2 mins walk from ground zero and the museums and memorials attributed to 9/11 is one huge reminder of groups of people who do not understand each other and the conflict that follows that. St Paul’s Chapel, part of Trinity Wall Street was meters away from the Twin Towers when they fell. The church acted as a ‘safe haven’ for 9/11 rescue workers, but its work continues after all the debris has gone. The chapel holds prayer for peace and reconciliation every day, a constant reminder that there is more work to be done, that conflict continues.
In our cities we deal with the diversity we find in different ways. There are plenty of congregations which seem to attract the same race or culture, class or interest group. There are other churches that pride themselves on their diversity and their ability to welcome difference, or to be inclusive in a particular way. Wherever we are on the continuum, the fact that diversity exists in our city will always bring conflict where there is no dialogue. If we do not work and pray for dialogue and peace we are negating our responsibility as peacemakers and creation builders – there really is no neutral that comes from doing nothing. In the days that follow I will be looking at and reflecting on some practical ways that churches are working with diversity in New York City.