Ainsworth United Church of Christ is quite unlike many other churches in America. In their own words, Ainsworth UCC is “multi-cultural, multi-racial, open and affirming.” And they’re pretty serious. Thirty years ago, 2nd Reform Church, a white congregation, was renting space to St. Andrews Church, a black congrregation, for separate services on Sunday afternoons. The ministers of the two churches decided that sharing a church without really sharing the church was nonsense. So they went on to create a heartwarming mashup of black and white church culture and eventually committed themselves to diversity, social justice and progressive Christianity.
Jan. 18, Ainsworth hosted their annual Martin Luther King Jr Celebration and Potluck and reminded everyone of what’s been setting them apart for decades; good food, good people, and hard conversations. In addition to pulled pork sliders, mac-and-cheese, REAL chili (no beans), and fried chicken, Ainsworth devoted itself to an afternoon of education and reflection on race and the most famous leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Tables were covered with info cards about important Black historical figures, groups discussed MLK quotes, and questioned whether their church was fulfilling its mission of inclusiveness.
At a time when anxiety about race, culture, and social justice is running high, it’s encouraging to watch a group of people doing their best to live out Martin Luther King Jr’s dreams for unity and cooperation. Ainsworth invites anyone to come and participate in their future conversations on race. Personally, if you’re free, I’d take them up on that offer. Aside from meaningful debates, these people really don’t mind if you show up just to start shit and eat free food. As a frequent visiting Atheist-Who-Starts-Debates-And-Eats-The-Food, I would know. Make sure you have the peach cobbler. It’s pretty damn amazing.