Cultural Sensitivity Workshop
May 17, 2003
Participants: Toni Van Kreidt, Our Savior, Mill Valley;
Anne and Zelinda, Incarnation, San Francisco, Michael Music, St. John the
Evangelist, San Francisco; Richard Helmer, Christ Church, San Francisco, Vincent
Jang, True Sunshine, San Francisco, Gordon Lau and David Lui, Our Savior,
Oakland, David Ota, St. Ambrose, Foster City.
After introductions, those present listed different
concerns they would like to have addressed in the workshop:
1. How to bridge differences between cultural groups Toni
2. Pronunciation of names Anne
3. Get up to speed and bring people into the church
4. 2000 Census results and beginning a ministry with the
people of South India, Bangladesh, or sponsor a priest from Southern India
5. Lack of ethnic clergy Vincent Jang, True Sunshine
6. How do we deal with ethnicity? Richard Helmer
7. Fear of addressing another cultural group when the
neighborhood is changing Anne
8. Minister to people on other faith paths Michael Music
9. Inter-marriage Toni Van Kreidt
10. Web-site for the Asian Commission Vincent Jang
Written papers on working with Filipino, Japanese and
Chinese people were distributed for reading.
The participants then proceeded to address the concerns
How to bridge differences between cultural groups?
- Many people mentioned the sharing of food is a helpful
way to begin. However, it is important to remember not to refuse an offer of
food that a person offers from their culture, as it might be interpreted as a
rejection of their culture.
- Offering friendship is the best way to bridge the
differences. A relationship of friendship is built on mutual respect and
- With most Asian groups, it is important that the host
congregation reach out and invite the Asian newcomer. Most Asians respect the
authority of others, and would wait to be invited, instead of just plunging in
where they have not been invited. This is often true of Filipinos, whose
English is often proficient enough to enter most congregations, but will
- It is important to remember that Asian cultures are
shame cultures instead of guilt cultures. In a shame culture, the worst
possible event would be to lose face in relationship with others. Asians
culture is an honor and shame culture which places emphasis on affiliation and
belonging to a group. In contrast, the American and western culture is a
success/guilt culture which places emphasis on the individual.
- It is important to understand the relationships/events
mean different things to people of different cultures. For example, whereas
the word family may mean the nuclear family in the American and western
culture, the word family may mean the extended family in Filipino culture.
It is not unusual for a Filipino household to have more than the nuclear
family living together.
- It takes time to understand and appreciate the culture
of another group.
- Be sensitive. Asians generally are more conservative
and shy than people raised in an American culture.
What is the experience of the liturgy from a newcomer and
from a different culture?
- Generally speaking, the liturgy itself will be foreign
to any newcomer, unless they have been raised in the church in a liturgical
tradition. Moreover, if the liturgy is held in a different language than the
newcomer. If a newcomer desires to worship with others, then someone should
sit with and guide the person, answering questions as they come along.
Remember, friendship is most important in welcoming a newcomer from a
Fear of addressing another cultural group when the
neighborhood is changing.
There are several fears that rise up in both the host
congregation and the newcomers from another culture:
- Losing identity and traditions.
- Losing power and self-determination
- Appearing foolish
When the neighborhood changes the host congregation is
challenged to have the faith to move forward and form and embrace a new identity
that includes the present congregation and the emerging congregation.
- A bridge between the two groups is needed to help them
- A bridge is needed to provide effective communication
between the groups.
- When misunderstanding between individuals or the groups
occur, much care must be used to be sensitive to both parties, understanding
the cultural dynamics at work.
How do the Asian congregations minister to people of other
- Inter-faith efforts because of ethnicity.
In the Japanese community, there
is much cooperation on an inter-faith level. In San Francisco, there is the
Japanese American Religious Federation (JARF, which works on joint projects for
the good of the Japanese American Community. Currently they are working on an
assisted living housing project.
- In the Chinese community most of the work is done
ecumenically among six or seven Christian denominations.