Growing up in a New York City suburb, my view of Los Angeles was colored by music, TV and toys. There were the Beach Boys. There was the Brady Bunch. And there was Barbie (a toy that I wanted, but my feminist mother would not allow).
LA in the 1960s was not nearly so white at the time as its media images. It is surely not so white today. In LA County, people of Hispanic, Asian and African-American origin far out-number non-Hispanic whites. We benefit from the diversity in which we are immersed.
One of the biggest changes in my life came when I moved to Los Angeles in 1993. My Bay Area friends couldn’t imagine such a move, in part because they held an image of LA that was either of the past or perhaps one that only ever existed in the media. I explained to them that one of the appeals of LA was its immense diversity. They didn’t believe me.
Another big change in my life was adoption of Unitarian Universalism as my faith. As someone raised in an Episcopal Church, my transition was eased by the minister at the Hayward Church, Mark Belletini (Mark led the commission that created our UU hymnals). Mark had a way of opening up a new faith that was welcoming to different upbringings, offering a theology that was both different and familiar, as well as non-threatening. I have belonged to a UU church ever since.
As a liberal church, we expose principles of diversity, as reflected in our first principle, but we don’t always live up to our ideal. I was sorry to read the phrase “recovering Catholic” casually stated in a recent article in UU World. Would UU World have published the phrase “recovering Muslim”? Perhaps we are biased against some religions, more than others? Although I’m fully a UU, I have fond memories of my Episcopalian church with ritual and community that was comforting.
To thrive in Los Angeles, Neighborhood Church needs to be a place that welcomes the heritage of prospective members, who will increasingly be Hispanic, Asian or African-American. Are we respectful of the Catholic traditions that are so important to many of LA’s Hispanics? Do we honor and welcome the AME or Baptist heritage of African Americans? Do we know enough about the diverse upbringings of the people who seek us out to engage in meaningful dialogue, or, do we project biases that come from the caricatures of media images?
Our future members will be change-seekers. They, like myself, may not be people who wish to abandon their past, but wish to grow from it. We will grow too by opening our congregation to change. And change can be stressful, both the ones we eagerly await and those that we dread. If you have thoughts about change, or any other aspect of the church that you’d like to discuss, please reach out to a board member. We want to hear from you.