NBC 6 continues promoting a healthy dialogue on race relations with our ‘Voices of Courage’ series. We are learning how to have civil discussions on sometimes uncomfortable topics. A local pastor, has been doing the work with his congregation for years, offers some advice.
Reverend John Henson is the pastor of Church for the Highlands in Shreveport, where diversity is celebrated. “All people are made in the image of God. We certainly are not perfect even though we are a very diverse church,” said Henson. “We call ourselves a learning church. We’re learning to go deeper in our diversity and in our understanding of our differences.”
He says it starts with listening so the congregation engages in storytelling. “Having people tell their stories because I really believe that builds empathy. Even though I don’t know what it’s like to grow up as a black person in Shreveport, I can learn from someone telling that story and I can develop empathy,” explained Henson.
They also hold church book studies, discussing books like ‘Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion’ by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. “Throughout the years we’ve read a lot of books that haven’t always been easy to read, but they have been very good for us to work on issues of race,” said Henson.
Of course, the most importance book to the church, ‘The Bible.’ “Reading scripture and worship and those things I believe open us up to see the blind spots that we have,” said Henson. “We can’t help but read about Jesus and the things He says and does without feeling conviction about our own behavior. So if I’m hating my neighbor or I am neglecting my neighbor by not speaking out about injustices, then there’s something deeply wrong with me and I need to change that.”