Over the past couple of days, I’ve seen some posts on social media stating that, “I don’t see color.” I get it. We should not measure a person’s worth by the color of their skin. Every human being has the same value in the eyes of God, all of us made in the Divine image and likeness. This basic Christian teaching shaped our culture’s foundational belief that all people are created equal. No argument from me there. But I have to say that I do see color. And I love it.
My parish is made up of people from various backgrounds. A good number of our parishioners are converts to Orthodox Christianity, people who found Eastern Orthodoxy somewhere along their journey. Many of our parishioners are “cradle Orthodox,” people who have been Orthodox since they were small children. Most of the people in this second group come, either directly or through their ancestry, from one of the world’s historically Orthodox countries.
The largest ethnic group in our church is the Macedonians, whose forebears founded our parish in the late 1940’s. The second largest ethnic group in our parish is the Ethiopians. (Needless to say, we also have Slavs of every stripe, Ukrainians, Russians, Serbs…) Being neither Macedonian nor Ethiopian, it has been a great blessing to me to have been embraced by both of these communities, as they’ve shared with me their respective history, cultural heritage, and language (that last one is a work in progress).
It has even been a greater joy to watch the various ethnic backgrounds of our parish come together to share their culture with each other. Ethiopian kids dance in our Macedonian dance group. Macedonian and Ukrainian women gather throughout Lent to make Pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs. Americans of German descent joyfully call out “Indeed He is Risen!” at Pascha in their ancestral tongue (and when you hear that in German, there’s no arguing the point). And we’ve filled the dance floor at our annual Macedonian Ball with people dancing to Ethiopian music. But even that is not my greatest joy.
It has been said that the most racially divided time in America is Sunday morning. Not at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. One of my greatest joys at St. Nicholas – and one of the things that I’ve missed most because of COVID-19 restrictions on church attendance – is looking out at the congregation and seeing that beautiful blend of black and white faces, all standing as sisters and brothers in the faith, praying to the same God who made us all, and partaking of the same Body and Blood of our Lord which unites us in an indissoluble bond of Divine love.
In every face that we look at, we discover the face of Christ. And, yes, I do see color in those faces. I see that color as part of an amazing human mosaic that depicts the radiant face of our Creator himself. And when we bring all those colors, and ethnic backgrounds, and personal histories together in a spirit of mutual respect and good will, everyone in the room is richer for it.