Episode 21: “Worshiping Whiteness” – Eric Nykamp

Eric Nykamp is the Director of Worship Design at Madison Church’s North Campus, the Director of the Antioch Worship Leadership Trainings for all of Madison Church’s campuses, and the producer of this podcast.  He also is worship leader and speaker, giving talks on using visual art as a method of prayer, utilizing drum circles in worship, and worship leadership in multi-ethnic congregations.  This talk, “Worshiping Whiteness, ” is a talk he recently gave as part of an ongoing worship leadership training to a majority-white congregation desiring to transition into a multi-ethnic church.

Many urban white churches realize that their congregation doesn’t reflect the diversity of the cities they reside in, and many of these churches desire to become multi-ethnic communities.  However, moving from this desire to developing into an actual multi-ethnic community can be challenging, especially for churches with a track-record of being a “whites only” worship space in their city.  Since most white people have little awareness of their white cultural norms, they mistakenly assume that what is normal for them is also the norm for all people … and are puzzled when their “outreach” or “welcome and enfolding” efforts fall flat with people of color. Due to this cultural blindspot, they are unable to recognize that some of their white cultural norms send the message that people of color with different norms of worship are not welcomed, unless the person of color is willing to assimilate.

Some majority-white churches realize that changing their worship norms will help them develop into the multi-ethnic space they desire to become … but find that they are stuck in making this happen.  This talk, given at one such church, addresses how white Christians need to recognize and understand how white norms about worship may operate within their church. The presentation asks questions about what it would mean for white people to change their ways and give up power in order to become a multiethnic community.  He concludes with a challenge to white Christians in multiethnic churches to love their brothers and sisters of color with Christ self-sacrificial love for the church, especially when it comes to issues of power and control in multiethnic churches.