Look up the word ally in the Merriam Webster dictionary online, and you will find this definition, "to unite or form a connection between". That's not a terrible definition for this post, but I want to clarify what I mean a little more. Every reconciler attempting to move an institution towards a change in policies, systems, and structures will need some allies. It is quite natural for the institution to buck against change. There is always too much room to be known as the "the-one-who-is-never-satisfied" or "the-one-who-is-not-a-team-player" or "the-one-who-always-points-out-what-we're-doing-wrong". When that happens, you will need some allies!
Allies are the people who will stand with you when the excitement is gone, when MLK Day is over, when its time to speak truth to power. Your allies are the people who will ask the hard questions, will advocate when you're not in the room, will carry on this work even if you leave. Your allies are the people who stand with you because they, too, are committed to racial reconciliation within the Church- that is your connection, that is where you find unity.
In my work, I have discovered that it's best to have allies in three key areas.
#1. You need an Ally of Influence. In small churches this might be the pastor, the pastor's spouse, or the worship director, whoever has a great amount of influence in the church. But it doesn't have to be those traditional visionaries. I worked with a Christian university in the Midwest where the best ally of their Multicultural Director was the Chief Finance Officer; you can imagine how that position of influence was a powerful ally! Someone responsible for directing the mission and vision of your church must be united in this work with you.
#2. You need Allies of Peers. This work is not meant to be done alone. Whether formal or informal, you need a team of people who walk this journey with you. They can be fellow staff members, congregation members, church volunteers, or community leaders. It is imperative that you share the work of reconciliation with others. It is essential to your mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. It is also vital for strategizing and implementing a plan to move the church forward; that is not work you should be doing alone.
#3. You need an Ally of Guidance. Important note... this should be someone who knows the organization but is outside the organization. When you truly start to challenge the culture of your church, it will be necessary for you to have an outside voice that provides mentorship, coaching, and prayer when things get sticky. You will sometimes be too close to the issues to clearly identify them or think of creative ways to tackle them. Your guide, your mentor will be able to offer you perspective that can be increasingly difficult to grasp the longer you are in the trenches. Your mentor can also remind you of who you are when you get weary, and you will get weary.
The hard thing about identifying your allies, is that it can take a long time for them to appear. After all, we live in an age where it is not very popular to be against diversity! So, there will at first appear to be a number of allies, proponents and supporters of your work. Be prayerful and discerning. If possible, bring friends with you on the journey- people who have proven themselves committed to racial reconciliation and have a shared vision for your church.
Having allies in these key positions will help ensure that you have the sustainability necessary to be an effective agent of change.