Thursday, February 23, 2017

Multi-Cultural Worship

I've often heard it said segregation is still practiced in most churches around the country. It is the last place where it is accepted and very normal. People tend to worship with people like them. I googled the phrase "segregation in churches today" and found many academic matches. 

But that is not the point of this post. 

Today I want to praise Pastor Karen Hernandez-Granzen and all she has done in Westmister Presbyterian Church in Trenton. She has made it her mission to practice multi-cultural worship every week. To serve the underrepresented (including those in prison) through activism. To make her church a place where everyone truly feels welcome.

The church's website says it's mission comes from Revelation 7:9-10

"After I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
I recently attended a Sunday morning service because of Pastor Karen's Facebook post (see, social media can be used to attract new worshipers). She was honoring Black History Month with Rev. Nadira preaching a sermon on "I am Enough" -- about how God does not call perfect people to spread his message, but He calls ordinary people he makes extraordinary (remember Moses?). She said often we give excuses where Blame, Name, and are Lame rather than getting out and doing things. As usual, I should have taken notes. It was based on Psalm 18:35: 

You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.
Then Stephani breezed through the sanctuary as a slave woman and (seemingly) effortlessly led us in singing Wade in the Water. She had us all mesmerized

Back to worship. The service included pictures and video from activism Pastor Karen and others participated in earlier in the week. She really epitomizes the biblical notion we are the hands and feet of Christ (numerous places including 1 Corinthians 12:27).

When I started to write this I was guessing Pastor Karen had been pastor about 10-15 years. She is very youthful and charismatic and energetic all in one. I was surprised to see she has been pastor there since 1995 (22 years now and going strong). She took over a church in jeopardy of closing its doors and made it vibrant through her passion. Some of the things she incorporated were aspects of truly multi-cultural worship -- services include traditional hymns from my youth (the "blue" hymnal) and more modern music. Hymns are sung in English, Spanish, and probably other languages. One song was also done in sign language (led by Pastor Karen). When the Lord's Prayer was recited, Pastor Karen encouraged us to say it in our own language, and the way we prefer to recite it. It reminded me of a conversation I had recently with someone who said while worshiping in Ireland they were surprised the Lord's Prayer was said in everyone's choice of language, and without the pauses we are used to doing as we say it in unison. 

It was beautiful.

On my way out the door I received a bag telling me I was a snowflake -- unique and special in God's eyes. 

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