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This Week’s Sacred Space: Building a Diverse Community

By Rev. Willie Barnes, Jr.
Stetson University Chaplain

As the crime scene images flashed across my television screen, I immediately began to think about the recent events in Las Vegas, Nevada, New York City, San Bernardino, California, and many other places both domestic and abroad. These incidents of violence and hatred are truly becoming too numerous and seemingly commonplace.

portrait of Rev. Barnes, dressed up in a suit and tieWhat should be our response? As a community, how can we overcome these atrocious acts?

We have to be a community committed to reaching across class, racial and ethnic lines in an effort to truly build community with those who look different from our family members, friends and others whom we are personally connected. How does getting to know someone stop terrorist attacks and prevent hatred? The answer is simple: IT DOESN’T. I’ve discovered that groups tend to demonize the “other.” It’s easier to hate that which we don’t understand. By reaching across religious, ideological and racial/ethnic boundaries, we are making a commitment to change the dominant narrative and build genuine relationships that have the power to overcome hatred and evil.

Stetson's three chaplains stand in front of the CUB on deland campus.

Stetson’s three Chaplains are, left to right, Rev. Willie Barnes, Jr., an African Methodist Episcopal pastor; Rev. Christy Correll-Hughes, an ordained Baptist minister; and Sensei Morris Sekiyo Sullivan, spiritual head of Volusia Buddhist Fellowship.

As we build communities on campus, through social media, social organizations, etc., be intentional about diversifying those spaces. The more we get to know people who may not share the same perspectives, religion or even political opinions, the more our world becomes shaped by tolerance, respect and peace, opposed to hatred and violence.

Throughout the week, make it a point to sit with a stranger during lunch or strike up a conversation with someone while in line at Starbucks. You never know how this conversation may lead to a relationship that causes you to grow personally or develop intellectually.


-Stetson University’s three chaplains write a weekly column for Stetson Today and will soon resume their weekly gatherings, called Sacred Space.