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There's a Seat for Everyone at Oakland City Church

By Kelly Gallagher

Diversity isn't just a political buzzword in Oakland, California- it is a fact. Oakland has been consistently ranked as one of the most ethnically-diverse cities in the United States. But despite coming from very different circumstances, all Oakland citizens all have two things in common. The first is that no person is perfect- everyone has made mistakes and faced challenges that helped bring them where they are today. The second is that they are all welcome at Oakland City Church.

"We're not supposed to be the same as each other. Each one of us is made by God in different ways. Instead of distrust, we hope those differences can be turned into a cause for celebration and joy," says Josh McPaul, one of the two primary pastors at Oakland City Church. "Our city is incredibly diverse, and differences can create misunderstandings and difficulties. Rich and poor, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, immigrant- all experience Oakland in different ways. We don't want to diminish the realities of our cultural, economic, and social differences."

Oakland City Church is situated in a "boundary" neighborhood in which people from different backgrounds have a tendency to mesh. Planting the church here was intentional. Pastor McPaul and his family have called Oakland home for many years, and in that time they have witnessed a division in Oakland, largely between the privileged "hills," and the more impoverished "flats." But, despite differences, they also noticed citizens willing to reach across the boundary.

"More and more we saw that there were neighborhoods where people from different backgrounds were living, working, and playing together. We wanted our church to be a part of that reconciliation," says McPaul.

At Oakland City Church, people are encouraged to wear whatever attire they find comfortable, and participate in the service as much or as little as they would like. People of all faiths are welcome to hear the Gospel. There is a nursery for very young children, as well as a Children's Ministry. In-church and home group meetings are also available for people interested in discussing current issues, studying the past week's Bible readings, and developing deeper relationships with other members of the congregation.

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The leaders of Oakland City Church hope the church can act as a catalyst for good in Oakland. They demonstrate this through a variety of community-based works. "We support mentoring programs in local schools, work with young people coming out of sex trafficking, and raise awareness around issues of domestic violence," says McPaul. "We also have a practice called 'Greater Than One' during which we collect funds for a family in need each week."

Home can mean a lot of things. It can mean a small apartment in a busy neighborhood or a big house on a quiet cul-de-sac. Home can be a public shelter or a place on a friend's couch. Wherever home is, there is a place for you at Oakland City Church. And long after the church bells have quieted and the doors have been locked up for the night, the lessons of love are still at work in the hearts of its congregation.

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About The Author

Kelly Gallagher studied creative writing at SUNY Oswego and Vermont College of Fine...

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