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Open Out

Author: Bill Millar

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Getting to the nitty gritty of living inter-culturally. Exploring new pathways for intentionally opening our faith communities (and ourselves) to folk who not only look and sound different but also think and act in ways we might not expect. A safe space where we can both accept our chronic clumsiness and overcome our unavoidable fears as our brains and hearts encounter the unexpected. The podcasts provide a practical, hands-on approach to helping people who want to open themselves to form new relationships with folk with a different cultural or racial background - in faith communities, or any other kind of community. Research was funded by the United Church Foundation.
23 Episodes
We are living in a time of transition, when the character, the personality of Canada [and all of NA] is changing, morphing. In many cities, the 'visible minority' now are actually the majority - and within a few years this will be true in most of our urban centres. Open Out is a podcast series to empower everyday folk to live courageously, even joyfully, in the midst of these reconfiguration. Canada has changed, is changing - a country today in which the people themselves are as diverse as the land itself. This is a series about the nitty-gritty of creating and living in intercultural communities, the practical side of welcoming folk from different cultures into our lives. It is a safe space where all of us, no matter what our cultural background is, can gently open our hearts and heads to diversity, create space in our personal lives and faith communities for those who not only look and sound different, but also think and act in ways we might not expect. While funded by a grant from the United Church Foundation, to equip congregations with new resources, the information in these podcasts can benefit all kinds of groups. This first episode is an introduction to the entire series. This episode was written and published before we felt the full effect of the  Cover-19 pandemic.Support the show (
This first series of Open Out podcasts, called "Curious" begins to explore that the possibilities are for faith communities who want to be intentionally open to welcoming folk who are somehow different - often those with different cultural backgrounds, including those who are new Canadians. We move from there to look at why a faith community might want to do that - and this means looking at the changes in both our country, and in our churches. Our country is experiencing a dramatic shift in its growth pattern - we are now growing mostly through immigration, and most of our immigrants are non-white &  non-European. Our churches too are experiencing a dramatic shift in their growth pattern - but for many this has meant shrinking.Rather than lamenting the declining attendance in our churches as a bad/sad thing, what if we see it as a Divine invitation to a radical new hope, a re-conceptualization of church in Canada. In these podcasts, Bill Millar, an intercultural ministry researcher & trainer, presents specific info on demographic changes and projections in the Canadian population, as well as patterns of church decline, and then explore strategies to lift churches out of shock and discouragement – helping them mobilize hope by opening their faith communities to more diverse populations!This episode, "What are the possibilities" looks at just that - what are the possibilities for faith communities who want to "open out" in new ways? We look at the story of one faith community that made such a change, and look at the difference between being simply "diverse" and being "intercultural" - becoming intercultural means opening the very heart of our communities to those who are new, those who bring the insights, vision, passion and resilience that has grown out of their experience of "coming from away"On you can download some material from this episode.This episode was recorded before we felt the full impact of Covid-19Support the show (
Given the dramatic changes in our world over the last few months, and especially, for North America in the last weeks, the context for Open Out, and for conversations about interculturalism and faith communities has changed significantly. In fact, most of those faith communities are currently closed. . . literally. This is a special edition of Open Out, looking at the impact of fear in our current situation.  Support the show (
Note: This episode was recorded before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in North AmericaIn this second episode of the "Curious" series, we look at reasons why faith communities (and other groups) might want to consider opening themselves to welcome greater cultural diversity - because Canada itself has changed, and is changing - dramatically. We look at the extraordinary transformation that is going on in the cultural make-up of our land - by looking specifically at census data, and at projections by Statistics Canada of what we are likely to look like in 15-20 years. Much of this episode focuses on information in the less-than-inspirationally-titled study, by Statistics Canada, called Immigration and Diversity: Population Projections for Canada and its Regions, 2011-2016.  Just over 50 years ago something happened that changed the entire direction of Canada - or, rather... stopped happening. Canadians stopped having as many babies - the birth rate dropped below replacement level. Since then our population increase has come primarily through immigration. In a few years almost all of our population increase will come through immigration - and these new folk are coming primarily from Asia and South Asia, plus significant numbers from Africa and the Middle East. This means the racial character of Canada is shifting - and soon, in many urban centres, the so-called 'visible minority' will, in fact, be the majority.This episode probes into these shifts, and asks what they mean for Canadians, for our identity and character, why they have happened and where they are likely to lead us.Support the show (
Episode recorded before full effect of Covid-19 pandemic In this episode we continue to explore why faith communities and other groups might want to intentionally open outwards, welcome the new diverse folk who are the new Canada. Today we look specifically at the impact of both the declining birth rate in Canada and the dramatic rise in immigration on the church itself. Rather than lamenting the declining attendance in our churches as a bad/sad thing, what if we see it as a Divine invitation to a radical new hope, a re-conceptualization of church in Canada?  Bill Millar, in this follow-up to Episode 2's exploration of demographic changes and projections, explores pathways to help individuals and churches mobilize hope by opening their hearts, minds and communities to "the strangers", newcomers, those who are now providing our growth as a nation.Support the show (
After these days of shuttered churches, our time of sheltering in, once more will come a time for opening out. It will not be a return to what was, but some kind of new time for churches - we will need to decide how we open out and to whom we want to be open. Same old, or new people, different people, all people? This is the first in our 'Considering' series. Here we dig a bit deeper, get a bit more into the specifics, the messy and wondrous nitty-gritty of opening our communities of faith to everyone, including those with a very different cultural background.In this episode we pick up on the theme of Curious 1, exploring what we might look like if we truly did 'open out' - looking, for example, at how a traditional Japanese church in Montreal opened itself to their Filipino and Pakistani neighbours and emerged as a rainbow community. We look specifically at the different levels of welcome a community might wish to express, from not-welcome to transformational welcome. This episode was written and produced before the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was upon us.Support the show (
When our computers stop doing the things we want them to, we reboot the system.  How can we reboot our thinking? Our relationships? Our churches? Our brains naturally perceive anything ‘different’ as a potential threat – so how can we help our brains adapt? This episode helps us prepare by understanding how privilege works & how it limits us,  as well as what helps people’s minds open out.This episode was written and produced  as the full impact of Covid-19 was just beginning to be felt. As the pandemic has spread across the world, we have seen the most astonishing thing - a near global rebooting. We have shut down our economy, turned off our commuting, reconfigured how we can be church to one another. Inevitably at some point, following these days of sheltering in will give way to a time of opening outwards. When, at last, we take down the shutters from our churches and other places of worship, and we open the doors again - we will decide how far we want to open those doors, to whom do we want to open our faith communities? Same old, or everyone, including those who have different cultural backgrounds? This episode can help us do that with new clarity.In this episode we will look at the unique patterns of both privilege and entitlement in faith communities, and help our brains find new ways of navigating unfamiliar paths.Support the show (
This episode picks up on some of the thoughts of last week's "Rebooting", but in today's we focus specifically on the actual mechanics of how we change. Our brains are hard-wired to resist change, yet and this is so evident on a global scale at this point in the Covid-19 crisis, humans have a remarkable ability to change, to adapt - and to do so quickly. Why can we do it, if not effortlessly, at least effectively, sometimes - yet at other times change can be so difficult? At this point, we do not know what life will be like after this pandemic, but we can be pretty sure it will be different than life before. The church, which at times has seemed so adventure-adverse has risen to the challenge amazingly, providing new, creative ways for folk to connect and be community together. After this time of sheltering in will, inevitably, come a time of opening out, and we will, at that point either intentionally or by default decide to whom we want to open our faith communities - same old? or all the folk that God might want to invite (even if they have a very different cultural background).  This episode provides a base for helping communities navigate through the change process. Support the show (
In this episode we explore the vital role of vulnerability in opening ourselves to folk with different cultural backgrounds. Humility and giving up control are key factors when a community wants to welcome newcomers – but how do we do that? Perhaps by leading out of our own insufficiency rather than sufficiency?Much of this episode is based on insights from a conversation with Damber Khadka, a brilliant leader in the Nepali church in Canada. Damber was a key leader and lay minister at Knox Winnipeg. As with many immigrants, his credentials could not be recognized here, so he has needed to redo his theological education. Damber was asked, from his perspective as an immigrant, not raised within the western church, what makes a church intercultural, what is it that is needed if a church here is to fully open itself to folk who are different. His answer may well surprise you!Support the show (
Why do more people die in hurricanes with female names? Why are so many male CEOs so tall? What's height got to do with being a CEO?  Why do bosses give lower performance appraisals to workers who are overweight? Why indeed. . .  This is the first episode in our Committed series, where we are really trying to get to the down and dirty, the very practical parts of intentionally opening ourselves and our communities outward to welcome all - including those with vastly different cultural backgrounds. Each episode will provide you with tools, skills and understandings that can help you exercise those opening-outward muscles! This is part 1 of a two-part series looking at Implicit or Unconscious Bias, the stereotypes and shortcuts all of our brains create to help us. Well, that's the brain's goal, but sometimes these are clearly not helpful. Fortunately many are easier to change than we might imagine.  Part 1 gives a brief intro to Unconscious Bias and part 2 will get into more specifics.Support the show (
This is our second podcast exploring Implicit or Unconscious Bias, the stereotypes ad shortcuts that our brains create to help us. Except it's not always such a big help. Sometimes they're just kind of odd, and sometimes they can even be dangerous. Fortunately many are easier to change than we might expect.In this second exploration we dig a little deeper, examine a number of biases and how they can impact our relationships. Often we try hard to get rid of all biases - sort of like abstinence in dealing with an addiction. However since they are part of how the brain operates, we explore 'harm reduction' as another approach to dealing with bias.As part of this episode, the host, Bill Millar will invite you to watch a one-minute video, about, oddly, bicycle safety. [It actually will make sense!] - so if you can, try this first: Test your Awareness: Do the TestThis is also the second episode in our Committed series - where we try to get to the nittiest and grittiest of the nitty-gritty of intercultural living.Support the show (
Is your 'me' a 'we'? It's an important question! This episode is the first of two looking at key differences in the ways people from different cultures think, feel, and make decisions - how they act and react. Today we focus on that core question: What does your 'me' look like? An individual? Or a group? Individualists include most of the people in Europe and North America, but they actually make up a small part of the world's population. Most (over 90%) of the people on the planet are collectivists.This means that, as our country grows, it will be growing largely through collectivists. And if our churches are to grow, they too will likely grow through collectivists - so learning about each other is vitally important.This episode draws on the work of the late Geert Hofstede, and, once again, the insights of Damber Khadka.Support the show (
Have you noticed? Even greeting each other can be tricky... should we bow [who first?], shake hands, kiss [one cheek or two? How many times?] Often the things we stumble over in our cross-cultural relationships aren't the big things - but the myriad little things. We are expecting one thing to happen, and something altogether different happens - this is hard for our brains. They can start to pull back, or collect resentments over this expectations that are not met.This episode explores a variety of cultural differences - and then offers a spiritual practice or mental tool called NAIL [Notice / Accept / Inquire / Learn] to help our brains relax and accept the unexpected. Support the show (
This episode, # 5 in our Committed series, was published during Pentecost 2020, the festival of intended inclusion, just as America is rocked by racial pain that can no longer be contained, the reality of exclusion. We are are beginning consider how we will, sometime soon, de-shutter our churches - open them again,[but to whom?]. Perhaps it is time not simply to re-open, but to re-imagine.  We have, over the last few months, utterly transformed worship - moving in from in-person to on-screen. And somehow we have survived such unprecedented change. Given that, would it really be so difficult for us to open our worship patterns just enough that those who have come to our land as immigrants could also join us for worship?  What reason could we have for refusing to make space for those who've arrived more recently than us, the differently accented, differently hued?This is the first of a two-part series on de-shuttering worship. In this episode we focus on understanding worship as experienced by the hearts and minds of most of the people in the world - a deep dive into the collectivist experience - wisely and intimately  guided into that world by Damber Khadka.  He helps us understand what's happing in the hearts and minds of newcomers in worship, gives insight into why this connection so often goes wonky, and suggestions about  we can do to open our circle wider.If you want to see your faith community open, explore, welcome new folk, this episode might be just the thing to help!Support the show (
This episode, a bit more technical, drawing on the wisdom of Michael Blair (Director of Church in Mission for national UC) and others, looks at the challenge of creating worship that can engage North American born folk [individualist culture] and newcomers & indigenous [collectivist]. The church finds itself in ambiguity. Mainstream protestant churches have been shrinking - as the traditional white cultural majority is giving way to a racially and cultural diverse population. How can we create worship that is truly open to all - worship that grows out of the lived experience of the new Canada. To help us, we look to the experience of the church in the townships of South Africa - themselves very much in-between [liminal] spaces - and discover the principles that have shaped their worship: ubunye, ubuntu & amandla.This is the second  in a two-part series looking at worship, and draws on material from last week's deep dive into the mind & heart of collectivist worship.Support the show (
This last episode in our Committed series looks at the challenge of re-opening our churches in the midst of the racial tensions that have been pulsing through our cities over the last number of weeks. How do Black Lives Matter and Intercultural Church connect? The title was originally The Power of Invitation, but Bill changed it to The Problem of Invitation. Why? What is the problem with inviting?Along the way we explore both intersectionality and the matrix of domination -two important themes in our inter-racial / inter-cultural relationships. Following this episode, Open Out will go on a wee break for a couple of months, and will begin publishing again in mid-August. Support the show (
We begin our second season by looking at the critical elements in the lives of folk who are  part of communities that are opening out, actively engaged in the process of opening themselves to welcome those who are somehow different. In our first episode we look at The Edge Effect in faith communities that are currently asking 'what could happen when strangers meet?'. The Edge Effect describes the fertile and creative zone created when two or more ecosystems meet, unique biological environments that allow new life forms to develop, and old life forms to morph. To help us focus, we draw on material from NPR's podcast, Hidden Brain,  that itself looks at the Silk Road Ensemble and the vibrancy created when different musical forms intersect. Then we explore whether churches, or other faith communities, can and have experienced something of that same energy - in conversations with Lesley Harrison [pastor at Knox Winnipeg] and Nobuko Iwai [pastor at Grosvenor Park Saskatoon], both diverse, intercultural faith spaces, both located in prairie provinces, historically fertile ground for Canadian diversity.Support the show (
"The more words you use, the less sense you make - how does that help anyone?" (Ecc 6:11). Apparently most intercultural researchers, theorists and trainers missed that wee verse. Intercultural competency. Cultural intelligence. Cultural humility. Constructive marginality. Intercultural sensitivity.  .  .  This episode wanders into the swirling stream of concepts, hoping  to find out how all these can work together to give us some practical insights and tools to help us build strong mutual relationships across cultural divides. While a show on 'concepts' may seem a close rival to watching paint dry - this stuff actually matters - it shapes both how we encounter the stranger, and how these encounters shape us.Support the show (
The third in our Commencing Series looks at "place" in our faith communities. As we open to people who are somehow different than those who have been there in the past - what are we offering them? Just space? Or a place? Placemaking involves  design [or re-design] processes for transforming public spaces into community places, places that belong to the people, the heart of the community. How can placemaking help our faith communities intentionally open outward, give grit and gravitas to our welcoming, embody our best vision of inclusion and generosity.And so to help us open,  we'll draw on insights from architecture/design, cultural geography, U.S white supremacists [yep, that is not a typo....] and a song by The Many called "All Belong Here" ['Come and remember who you are here...'].Like our last episode, this one might seem at first to be a bit technical - but knowing what we are really offering newcomers to our communities is essential if we are to build lasting, strong relationships. Jesus told his companions 'I'm going to prepare a place for you...' - so are we doing something similar?Our Commencing series focuses on issues and concerns that impact communities and individuals who no longer are simply wondering about this path, and have moved beyond intention, into the often confusing process of living as a community that is intentionally and truly open. Support the show (
While group decision-making is never easy, when the group making decisions is diverse - with some collectivists, some individualists, some direct communicators, others indirect, some top-down, and others bottom-up - it's a mix that regularly leads to misunderstanding, frustration, and communication breakdown! Why is this? How can people who are good at making decisions in their personal lives stumble so often when they try to do it together.We explore this question, and possible solutions,  in this episode with Eric Law, founder of the Kaleidoscope Institute - a respected, wise voice in intercultural ministry. Eric shares with us his insights into what can help diverse groups communicate, plan and make decisions together. In addition Adrian Jacobs, of the Sandy Saulteaux Spiritual Centre, shares with us the Haudenosaunee teaching on the 'two row wampum' - and how it connects to interculturalism.  This episode, the 4th in our Commencing series is a little longer than most - running just over 45 minutes.  [Sorry...had a series of technical problems in publishing this episode. Hope all resolved now]Support the show (
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