A Conversation in New York City
Before classes began, I traveled north to New York City for a weekend. I started off my Saturday by volunteering at Rauschenbusch Metro Ministry’s food pantry. Upon arriving, I met Phil–a life-long New Yorker. We chatted a bit and I asked him, “What’s the best part of living in the City?” Phil responded, “The melting pot of people. It’s always changing. Seasons of people come and go in the city. Sometimes you encounter good seasons and are thankful for the melting pot. You rejoice over all those in the mix. Other times you get pissed at the melting pot. You encounter folks that tick you off. Your patience runs low. The thing is, this city is a melting pot and it will always be a melting pot. I mean, when you put this many diverse folks in such tight quarters, what else could you expect?! So, you’ve got to embrace.”
Now, parts of my feminist, theologically trained, critical mind cause me to wonder if I am completely on board with the image of a “melting” pot. A melting pot implies some sense of deteriorating, losing, and changing in order to become something else, in large part due to external forces. Parts of me would prefer to call NYC a mosaic rather than a melting pot. Overall, I think Phil’s words around this metaphor aptly describe this crazy but wonderful entity called divinity school.
At Wake Div our melting pot contains great diversity–be it from denominational affiliation, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, political affiliation, or music preferences–to name but a few factors. Although some may feel more comfortable with diversity ratios leaning one way or another, the pot is never stagnant. For you see, each semester we bring new students into the fold of community who bring their whole personhood and life experience with them. We also see other people of the fold leave with remnants of their personhood settling in the halls of Wake Div. This constant movement causes the pot to sometimes simmer more liberally with a spice of conservative thought. Other times the pot may appear pretty “moderate” and cause folks on either side wondering “HOW DID WE GET HERE?!” Yet through it all, the pot is constantly shifts and stirs as we all immerse or distance our individual selves from the collective, corporate whole.
As a third year, when I find myself frustrated at the melting pot or the way the pot bubbles, I find myself pausing and thinking, “Wake Div is not like it used to be. I miss this or that, or him or her.” I want to distance myself from the pot, to find myself better than the current pot and be ticked the pot is not like it used to be. Yet, I also often find myself thankful for the melting pot in its present moment and cannot imagine myself anywhere else, immersed in any other community with any other people.
After Phil and I talked, I stepped back and watched some thirty plus wildly diverse food pantry volunteers walk across the aisle of the church to embrace, to talk, to laugh, to cry–together. They did not let pre-conceived notions, arguments from prior engagement, differing views, or stereotypes stand in the way of their relationships and their service. I think that is what a melting pot at its best should look like. At Wake Div, we are fortunate to have such a diverse, rich melting pot of folks to do life with. The question we must continually ask ourselves is: “ Are we embracing the melting pot of Wake Forest University School of Divinity for all it offers?”