When a new employee joins us, an interoffice email reminds us to welcome them to our Board of Pensions family. That’s important. But it’s only a start. The real work lies in making sure they feel not only welcome but like they belong.
The Reverend Pepa Paniagua says in the Board’s latest Wholeness Moment that belonging eludes us if we sense that “we’re not, maybe, fully known or fully seen or fully accepted … when we feel like we have to hold a piece of ourselves away or back.” Our light stays under a bushel basket. Our gifts go unshared.
A Theology of Benefits, the foundation for the work of the Board, states that the Church promises to support the people it calls to varied forms of service so they may devote their best gifts and energies to the work of God's kingdom. God’s desire is for each of us to flourish in life. That should also be the desire of every employer, the Board included, or we lose out on the best those we call have to offer.
A diverse workforce helps foster a sense of belonging. Diversity among staff lets us know that we don’t have to be a certain way to fit in. The Board partners with firms that specialize in recruiting qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences. For over a decade, the Board has substantially exceeded the General Assembly goals for gender and ethnic diversity. Last year that continued with new hires, 59 percent of whom are female and 41 percent of whom are people of color.
But a diverse workforce does not guarantee a sense of belonging. Employees must learn to work together in light of their differences. We’ve invited Dr. James Smith Jr., a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, to guide us in strengthening our relationships with each other. Dr. Smith frames the DEI conversation with optimism, achievement, and leadership. His goal is to guide us in developing the mindset that together, each of us can achieve what we’re hoping for, both professionally and personally.
God wants us to flourish. We can’t do that if we’re hiding. As Rev. Paniagua says, “If you can’t show up with your full self, gosh, that gets exhausting.”
Grace and peace,
The Reverend Dr. Frank Clark Spencer