Friday, November 13, 2015

Feedback on my Talk at the Cannon River Conference

On April 11, 2015, I spoke at a conference of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I wrote about this event on this blog and on my Swahili blog. I have seen in The Spire, the newsletter of the First Lutheran Church of Red Wing, Minnesota, the following report on my speech.



In April some representatives from First Lutheran, United Lutheran, and St. Paul’s Lutheran attended the women’s Cannon River Conference in Zumbrota. There was a very thorough explanation of the history of the beginnings of the Lutheran church in this area of the country, so there was less time for the main speaker, Joseph Mbele, a St. Olaf professor.

Besides teaching, Professor Mbele works with groups in the area to mediate cultural conflicts. He asked us to look at the positive and the potential in all people; do not rush to judgment. What is natural in one culture may not be correct in another, and what is an issue in one culture might not be an issue in another. 

For example, in Faribault the storekeepers were upset because the Somali men stood in front of the stores or nearby and talked. The storekeepers felt this was loitering and bad for business. In Africa this was the custom to talk together outside stores and it was considered impolite to make a quick purchase and leave. Americans are very concerned about being on time. In Africa it is considered rude to rush by people and not talk to them, and in small villages many are related. On the way to a meeting an African might stop and talk to a number of people, and probably will arrive late to a meeting.

Other examples: In Brooklyn Park other residents were complaining about loud music. In Africa everyone in the small town is invited to a wedding and no invitations are sent out. Child raising views are quite different too; Africans take the phrase, “It takes a village” quite literally. Everyone is supposed to help watch the kids while Americans believe they should only watch their own children and don’t want any help from other people. 

Professor Mbele wrote a book about some of these differences, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, which we purchased for the church library.

The next meeting of the Cannon River Conference will be held in April 2016 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Red Wing with United and First assisting.

Respectfully submitted,
Nancy Thorson, FLCW President

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