Detroit-area speaker encourages churches to be more welcoming

Source: The University Record

John Thorne wants his church to be more inclusive and welcoming.

John Thorne

In fact, he wants all churches to be more inclusive and welcoming.

That is the foundation of a presentation he will give at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at St. Mary Student Parish, 331 Thompson St., as part of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium.

Thorne, executive director of the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance, said the event “All Are Welcome … But Are They?” is intended for both church-goers and those who do not attend church.

His speeches attempt to help parishes frame racism both in historical and current context.

“We know that the church has not always been a place of welcome for Blacks, especially as we look at post-slavery and how people connect to the church,” Thorne said. “For many of us, we want the church to be a place where strangers are welcome and the homeless are welcome and everyone is welcome.

“For me it’s a clarion call, that if we really want to be welcoming, we have to walk the walk and talk the talk so that everything we are is centered toward that access so the church can be a place of welcome.”

Thorne said systemic and institutional racism can permeate the hallowed halls of the church, and it is up to congregations and pastors to ensure their place of worship is inviting.

“People are wanting more in our society, more than just a tagline of Black Lives Matter, but that unity that people are looking for,” he said. “That’s the place we’re trying to get to, not only in the church but in our world.”

The Black Lives Matter movement of the past 18 months provided top-of-mind opportunities for progressive discussion and action that Thorne hopes is not lost now that the national focus seems to be elsewhere.

“How do we make sure that we never become complacent with issues, and if we’re really working toward social justice and human dignity, how do we keep that at the forefront of our minds in everything that we do so that it’s not forgotten?” he said.

The presentation is hosted by the St. Mary Student Parish Anti-Racism Working Group. The talk will be live-streamed, and in-person spaces will be limited for COVID safety.

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