IEI’s Service Year program teams up with Rural Faith Communities program for peer network webinars

Diversity Drilled Down – What’s Our Lens?

IEI’s Service Year NC program has been teaming up with our Rural Faith Communities program more and more over the past year. Many North Carolinians can easily see the intersection of service and faith, and harnessing the power of formalized and grassroots service can strengthen the backbone of many rural communities with a long history of giving and growing together.

IEI’s Rural Faith Communities program hosts peer networks—webinars on topics rural faith leaders care about—multiple times a year. Coming off our 2019 RFCAI Conference where Service Year NC Director Darryl Lester introduced some rural faith leaders to the “10 Lenses” exercise, we got multiple requests to revisit the importance of exploring our “lens” when it comes to service or ministry.

During our Multicultural Peer Network, Lester asked rural faith leaders and partners to quickly answer 30 questions about how they see the world. Those answers were then scored to see what people’s “dominant” lenses are… and it is fascinating.

Many rural faith communities are diverse, and many are not. Diversity can include geography, age, nationality, education, sex, gender or more, but in North Carolina, it often centers on race. Faith leaders who wish to engage across cultures, races and barriers in rural areas used the “10 lenses” exercise to examine their own ways in which they see the world. In faith and service communities, there tend to be “givers” and “receivers,” and with a power balance like that, faith leaders try to further their cultural humility to “do no harm,” as Methodist founder John Wesley says.

Rural faith leaders continue to dive into deep conversations about what transformational and real relationships look like in rapidly changing rural North Carolina. Rural faith leaders acknowledge the opportunities and challenges of creating multicultural relationships in spaces and sectors that tend to isolate themselves from each other. IEI’s faith Peer Networks exist to be a virtual gathering space for small groups of faith leaders that are actively reconnecting themselves to their communities and their congregations to their values. There is nothing more exciting than new friendships and partnerships forged in deeply intentional, respectful and humble beginnings. It’s just the rural way.

If you’d like to learn more about the “10 Lenses,” you can check out the book here.

Service Year NC Director Darryl Lester leads a Multicultural Peer Network webinar.