*Giveaway information at the end!
I have had the pleasure of hearing Trillia Newbell speak live twice before reading her book, United. I admit, that was part of the reason I selected her book. I really enjoyed hearing her speak, her perspective, her approachability, and her genuine concern for women & diversity in the church.
Regarding the Author: Trillia Newbell
Having the opportunity to hear Newbell speak live, gives me a unique perspective on her writing. She writes exactly as she speaks, and she speaks like you are having a personal conversation with her. She is comfortable with her thoughts and what she is expressing. Her writing style is authentic, easy to follow and from the heart. While this is not a small book, it is a quick read that reflects more than just her life, but more importantly the call to be sisters in Christ regardless of our skin color.
Regarding the Book: United
When I read the first personal accounts from Newbell on her negative experiences regarding race, I sat back my chair shocked. I saw her in person, I couldn’t believe she was actually older than I. Surely that would be the case, for her to have the experiences she shared. Yet, as I continued reading, I would find that in fact my first assumptions were correct. Trillia is younger than me. Then, I was saddened. Racism is a subject that I can not wrap my head around, and I find myself ever grateful for the family and community I grew up in.
As I continued to read through the book, I stopped at a familiar story. Newbell shares how she would face criticism from other black classmates for being “too white” due to how she presented herself. This story brought me back to a conversation I had with a fellow classmate, Tasha, in high school. In our honors classes, Tasha was always very articulate and spoke with far better grammar and articulation than most of our class. Yet, I would notice that when she would get around her friends, there would be a change in her speech patterns and word choices. When I asked her about it, she shared that she couldn’t speak the same way to her friends as she did in class. She would be criticized for it. Apparently, while a lot has changed, a lot still hasn’t when it comes to how we perceive each other in this world.
Which means, this book is very important. Newbell references other great authors and scripture to support her case for the need of diversity within the church. She provides thought provoking questions, challenges the readers to get out of their comfort zone, and encourages us all to be united as brothers and sisters in Christ while embracing our differences.
I went into this book with a mental road block, that I carried from hearing her speak live. The idea of diversity in the church is great, and I support it entirely. In fact, I have been blessed to live in communities that are culturally diverse. Of my friends I can account just about every country and ethnic background. Yet, in our church, there is not the diversity I would wish. Part of the problem we face is a language barrier. We have a lot of immigration into our communities in South Florida. Churches that can accommodate those foreign languages are not just something that is desirable, but rather a necessity. Many will come upon our shores without knowing a single word of English. It is natural for them to find a church that speaks their language in order to find community, friendships and the Word. Our neighborhoods and circles of friendships are diversified, but our churches are not. In a recent conversation, I found my daughter’s friend was going to a Spanish speaking church. Although he, and his parents, are fluent in English. When talking with his parents I found out they sought out the Spanish speaking church to specifically engage him back in to their culture and help him to become more fluent in Spanish (he has relatives that are no English speakers). It is the “use it, or lose it” mindset. Our second problem with diversification in our churches comes from a place where our immigrants feel they are losing connection to their roots.
So, how do we begin to diversify our church when our differences go beyond the color of our skin or the type of music we prefer… and to something much deeper, more cultural, and more committed to preserving their traditions? I didn’t expect that Newbell would answer that question, coming from a town that may be rich in color but not facing the same language and culture barriers that would be found in my community. Yet, Newbell came through. From the most obvious solution, prayer… to the suggestions of intentionally looking at our staff and leadership in the church. And, the most difficult, being authentic with the leadership of the church your heart for diversity in the pews.
Highlights from the Text:
While I can’t quote the whole thing here, in the appendix of United, Trillia Campbell includes a transcript of an interview with Thabiti Anyabwile on the subject of race, and his desire to rid the world of the notion of race, as well some of his recommended readings on the subject or race in the church.
I’ll leave you with this compelling quote from United, as some food for thought:“How can we fulfill the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations if we all seek only churches in which we are comfortable?” (United, Trillia Newbell)