DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Culture and Class

Written by: on June 13, 2019

Reading Culture Shock! London and Culture Shock! Great Britain is both informative and intriguing as one preparing to adventure to England in the fall. Reading about what to do and not do, the layout of London, the vast differences of the people, and how to go beyond a tourist perspective are all helpful in understanding the journey we are about to undertake.

Of course, reading the texts, one wants more than outdated comics. Maps of the city and charts revealing demographics would be helpful to visualize the content. With neither being the case, readers such as myself rely on the British movies and TV shows such as Harry Potter, Downton Abby, The Crown, the Great British Bake Off, and Love Actually among many others to paint a picture of the life and culture. These shows give enlightening, while sometimes fictional, insight into the realities of the politeness, language, and class system of England.

In particular the insight around class in both books stood made me curious. While Culture Shock! Great Britain played down the classes and described it as antiquated, it seemed much more realistic in Culture Shock! London that the class system is a valid aspect of the identity of those who at least live in London. “Class is the index that Britons use to establish how they fit in, and how others fit into their society. In other words, it is a significant component of most British people’s identity.”[1] It is obvious from both texts that a minimum of three classes exists, including the working class, the middle class, and the upper class and aristocracy. The largest classes are working and middle but regardless of where one is situated, most people do not marry or associate outside of their own class. This has much to do with comfortability and privacy.

With there being more than two hundred different languages spoken in London and one-quarter non-English residents, it is of interest how class breaks down for those who are new and non-native to Briton. Do all foreigners get lumped into working class? How do people move from one class to another? Is it possible to marry or associate beyond your own class without being isolated from those within your group?

Even more interestingly to me are questions of how the class system effects the church. Do churches reach only one particular class? Are people willing to come together outside their class in the Protestant church in England? How is evangelism done? I recognize these questions are many but I also wonder if becoming curious about other regions of the world will help to inform one’s perspective on home to be able to have new eyes and curiosity.

In the United States it seems at first glance there are just people, who are free and not class bound. However, just as churches tend to be segregated racially, they seem to be tailored more generally to middle class communities. Even Wesleyan churches, which have a heritage of reaching out to the most marginalized in a community, are looking toward financially viable models that extend themselves to those who can give toward a pastoral staff that focuses on caring for the needs of most middle-class families.

Let’s be clear about class. There is nothing wrong with being in a particular situation in life. What comes as a condemnation, at least from an American Christian perspective, is the inability to be valued as important or worthy of dignity by others, often from a higher class than one’s own. This same truth can be transferred to those of color or gender differences. Classes have to do much more with economic status and education though there tends to be racial and gender divides that follow with many class distinctions in both America and Great Britain.

One quote from Culture Shock! London recognizes the variance of London in attempting to stereotype a whole city of people; “who a real Londoner is—what makes him or her tick. The reason for this is there is no such thing. London is too big, too diverse and too transient a place for any grand, unifying values to take root and prosper.”[2] While muddied in the cities, class, ethnic and gender distinctions are much more distinct in suburban and rural cultures. Both texts reveal that there are characteristics fitting of all people in Great Britain but there are more defining aspects of those in London, whether as more diverse or more hurried, than to the greater area of the country.

The work of diversifying a community can be good, negative or neutral. Within the church, where there is much less diversity, there is a need for outreach to different people groups. I am looking forward to learning from Dr. Clark and an entire community of people from London to Oxford (and hopefully many people in between, including our LGP students and advisors) on how to politely and appropriately see the gospel bring good news across historical, geographical, and even political barriers.

 

Onward to England…glad we got an invitation!

 

 

[1] Hargraves, Orin. CultureShock! London . Marshall Cavendish Corporation. Kindle Edition. (Location 891)

[2] Hargraves, Orin. CultureShock! London . Marshall Cavendish Corporation. Kindle Edition. (Location 971)

About the Author

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Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

14 responses to “Culture and Class”

  1. mm Mike says:

    Trish,
    Brilliant introduction and spot on questions! I looked up some of the current slang words and phrases in preparation for some of our more comic members of LGP8 who I am sure will be taking the stage during our advance. The polite slang terms are like “blimey” for my goodness, “bee’s knees” for awesome, and “wonky” for not right. I think we can fun with by coming up with British nicknames for some of our more vocal members.
    For example, “toff” means an upper-class person. Your post went into depth about the class differences within the very diverse demographics of Great Britain and London.
    Like you, I am really looking forward to the Advance and seeing everyone again. I want to learn how Dr. Clark “leans-in” on the hard topics of doing church with a broken people that do not fit the class system of status, nor the reformation system of proper evangelicalism. People are messy, and so is church. But praise be to God, nothing is too big for Him to make “sorted.”
    Stand firm,
    Mike

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Mike, I am looking forward to hearing Dr. Clark’s perspective as well! And I am excited to learn some new phrases while getting to know the people of England and beyond. I am interested in understanding the difference between Oxford and London both in culture and church culture too.

  2. Hey Trish, I have noticed hints of the class system still in place when I’ve visited England. But on one trip, my own prejudice was revealed. I was attending a Bible Study and there was a woman there who had a strong Cockney accent, which is one that is typically associated with lower/working classes. When this woman spoke, it became clear that she was highly educated, and I realized that I was surprised by that–whereas I wouldn’t have been if the same things had been said by one of the other women who had accents that sounded like the actors on Downton Abbey. On the ride home with my host, I learned that the woman with Cockney accent had THREE doctorate degrees. Yet I had wrongly prejudged her based on her accent.I then realized that modern cinema had created and enforced these prejudices for me, because I had not actually met that many British people, my impression had been formed, for the most part, through media.

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Jenn that is great insight about the woman you met with three doctorates! I am certain I will make blunders but hope to walk with a bit of humility (and lean on those such as you and Jace to learn). Thanks for your learned wisdom as well. In true missionary posture. 🙂

  3. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Trish,

    You mentioned the Great British Baking program. My wife loves that show! I am going into the other room right now to tell her what you said…

    Jay

  4. Shawn Hart says:

    Trisha…great post. I tried out for a preaching job in Louisiana once, only to find that my lack of sustainable income at the time was apparent the moment I walked in the church. To be honest, I am not sure if they felt more awkward having me there, or I if I felt more awkward being there. We were clearly mis-classed; a fact that was not ignored…or commented on the entire weekend. Even if I had been offered the job, which I wasn’t, I would not have felt comfortable enough taking it.

    In retrospect, I know that it was probably the most awkward I ever felt in a church building in my life. Honesty, I never want to feel that way again; not what the Lord intended for His people.

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Wow Shawn, that’s a pretty sad way to endure classism, although I am sure it happens more than I realize. I am glad you landed in a place you were accepted and also, that you felt able to minister to.

  5. Chris Pritchett says:

    Hey Trish way to bring out the meaningful insights from a travel book! I thought it was quite insightful how you emphasized the class system in London and even how the issues play out in film, particularly Downton. I would like to believe that we are in a better situation in the United States in this regard, but something tells me this would be too simplistic a conclusion.

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Chris, I agree. I think our class system is much more subtle here but still real and felt both inside and outside the church.

  6. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Great post Trish. This makes me wonder what class I would be perceived as if I were to move to London. Maybe people will just assume Im a movie star because I am from california. upper class it is then.

  7. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Trisha you had some great insights into the class issues. Though maybe more overt in England you wisely point out that they are evident in the US as well even in the church. I have many of the same questions that you do particularly about the church and it’s ability to connect to a diverse group of people both ethnically and socially. I am looking forward to the experience and opportunity to discover together as lgp students.

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Dan, we think alike on many of these issues and have similar questions. I am looking forward to England and the experience of seeing and asking our questions first hand and to our own lead mentor!

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