>Diversity Training

>Kirsty Young began a four-part history of the British Family from the end of WW2 to the present day last night. It’s a sign of old age when you see your own childhood as history. But that’s what it was and it was a fascinating insight into how families have changed and how my own family changed. The programme highlighted how the family was in crisis as a result of WW2 and how marriage came to be understood relationally rather than institutionally. The programme reminded me of the angst of the 50s and 60s as we discussed and argued (not very calmly because of the issues at stake). Shocking statistics revealed the amount of sexual ignorance and repression. There’s more to look forward as the series continues next week.

Running through my own mind at the same time were thoughts about how to facilitate “diversity training” – that’s part of my job. I had already read Donald Clark’s post about narrow minded (and patronising, frustrating and annoying) diversity training and was wondering what it is all about. Then, putting two and two together I realise how diversity training has developed in family life. The politics of home life has seen the emergence and emancipation of women, the development of companiable relationships between adults and a transformation in relationship with children – (or is that all still aspirational?)

And what has been the training programme? Has it been that through the developments in the media we have been able to be part of a very public debate about relationships and the family? Through the soap operas we have seen all sorts of relationships and sufferings modelled and entertained ideas about where we fit in our own behaviours. And doesn’t the training continue through “homework” and “exercises” – in which we exercise and practise love for others, including listening for their best interest and their frustrations.

Is this a clue for facilitating diversity training? What else is there?

There is also listening. Are there voices we can hear protesting their exclusion and their hurt? Hearing their cries prompts us to ask questions about how much they count as people and to challenge the systems that oppress and marginalise them. We do have a hearing problem though – because the voices of suffering are hard to hear. Their cries are muffled and smothered in so many cases. Careful listening becomes a requirement – listening that is full of care will prise off respectability’s veneer to investigate what is really happening and what people are really feeling. This is diversity training which is moved by compassion to diversify practice and thinking so that there is room for people. People suffer the world over because of their gender, their sexuality, their ethnicity, their nationality, their age, their class etc etc. They suffer personally in the details of their daily life (and often within their own living space/home) – and they suffer because of our narrow minded thinking.

But why do we need “diversity training” in the church? That’s my exercise – “to review continuing ministerial development in the area of diversity issues” – within the monochrome Diocese of Chester. For one thing we could refer to the experience of those who complain about being excluded (women clergy some of the time), or to the absence in our congregations of youngsters (and other groups) because our thinking and practice is not diverse enough to embrace them. Or we could refer to our scripture and Jesus’ ministry which has “diversity training” so much at its heart. Jesus’ life was with the marginalised. He taught us (Matthew 25) to recognise him in the prisoner, the naked, the asylum seeker, the scavenger and the homeless. He invited his followers to diversify their thinking to embrace a saviour who could be crucified as a common criminal. Those who accepted the invitation became a diverse family in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female”. (Galatians 3:28)

As an enabled, white, English, straight, educated, male priest in the “established” Church of England in this skewed world I should have enough power to do something to diversify our world. I know it must start from where I am. I’m just off to the Post Office. Who knows – it could just start there.

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