Albert Chu and his brother grew up as the only two Chinese kids in their Edmonton, Alta., neighborhood. It wasn’t easy.
“It was an uphill battle in terms of racism and stereotypes,” Chu said. But he had a sense that things could be different.
The son of a church planter, Chu grew up hearing stories from the book of Acts. He noticed that whenever these early churches began, they almost immediately became more diverse. All kinds of different people from different ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds started to gather around the gospel.
“The book of Acts kind of knocked me over,” Chu said, reflecting on this vision of the kingdom that began stirring in his soul.
Unfortunately, Chu also noticed that institutions such as the Chinese immigrant church of his youth were often quite resistant to welcoming those who are different.
“There’s a cost to hospitality,” Chu observed, noting that even posting signs in English as well as Chinese at his childhood church was sometimes too much to ask. In fact, many of the churches Chu knew of did not seem willing to pay what it might cost to welcome people who were truly different.
The Tapestry, the church Chu helped plant 15 years ago in Richmond, B.C., seeks to be different. It strives to be a community that is not just willing, but even eager to extend its welcome. Early on, for example, the church invested significant money to widen doorways and add accessible parking to better welcome neighbors who lived in a nearby group home.
Yet even at a church that celebrates and strives to see different kinds of people woven together, dealing with these differences can be difficult.
“I’m pretty terrible at conflict,” Chu admitted. The Tapestry has found that celebrating diversity is one thing when it has to do with trying a new type of food or making spaces accessible; it’s quite another when it comes to divisive issues.
For this reason, the Tapestry brought in The Colossian Forum (colossianforum.org), a Christian organization that equips churches to have Christ-centered conversations in the midst of conflict. The Colossian Forum helped a group of leaders at The Tapestry talk about their faith and how it related to issues around human sexuality.
Following the structured process recommended by The Colossian Forum, including prayer, worship, and spiritual disciplines, these leaders were able to have a difficult conversation while keeping the focus always on Christ and on following him together. For Chu, that’s the common thread. Whether it is leaders engaging conflict through The Colossian Forum or installing accessible doors, when Christ is at the center, diversity among Christians is not just possible, it’s also beautiful, even if it is still a lot of work.
“We are always returning the conversation back to Christ at the center,” he said.