Friday, August 7, 2015


Tabitha and I spent most of this week on stay-cation with our foster kid. Between that and other responsibilities at church, I didn’t have time to write a new letter. However, I think I’ve written some interesting stuff in the past. So I figured I’d just copy and paste something from several years ago that I enjoyed writing. Perhaps you’ll enjoy reading it, either again or for the first time. And if you didn’t like it when you read it years ago, feel free to skip this and go read some scripture instead! Always, it’s a joy to be connected with you…

Cuando Fluyan a la Mar…

I was privileged to be ordained at Iglesia del Pueblo Christian Church in Hammond, IN. In fact, IDP was the first Disciples of Christ church I joined. So it’s important to me, although I almost never attended in the first place. What happened was I, a relatively new DoC convert, was looking around the Chicago area for a DoC church to ordain me. I tried many places over multiple months, but nothing seemed ‘to fit.’ However, I needed to choose soon if I hoped to be ordained after graduation…

Then an attractive woman at my seminary told me she’d been checking out IDP, this Disciples church just over the state line from south Chicago, and it was really cool. They spoke Spanish and English, she said, and worshipped with a praise/gospel/salsa band, and I should go with her sometime. I must say, that sounded intriguing, but very intimidating. And I agreed to go mainly because 45 minutes in the car each direction was a long time to convince her to date me.

It worked, by the way. She’s now my wife! And what’s certainly less important, but still crucial, is I loved the church. Plus, they nurtured me down the final path to ordained ministry. But again, however neat the result in retrospect, I didn’t expect IDP ‘to fit.’ I figured I was a young white kid who speaks minimal Spanish. Thus, hoping a predominantly Latino congregation would partner with and love me enough to make me a reverend seemed farfetched. Until I walked in the door, and all assumptions I’d made about “Us v. Them” or “White v. Latino” disappeared, when John Cedeno vigorously greeted me, saying, “Thanks for coming! Tell me about yourself!” Great hospitality! I felt very welcome. And that helped me relax enough to learn that in the important things, IDP and I were one and the same. We both valued hospitality and passionate worship, above most everything else.

But similar though our values were, IDP worshiped differently than I’d experienced before. They were intentionally multicultural. This, as you might suspect, is quite tricky. Across the country, only 7% of American churches are what sociologists dub “multicultural” (meaning no one ethnic group tops 80%). Indeed, White, Black, Latino or Asian Pacific-Islander, most American Christians attend church with folk who look similar, and share similar tastes in music and expectations about worship culture (expectations like service length, music volume, impromptu v. scripted prayer, vocal interaction during sermons, clapping). That’s not news, surely, but the stats highlight how strange IDP was by blending English and Spanish, Black Gospel, Salsa, White Evangelical Praise, and Old European Hymns. However, what to some seemed strange, I learned was Glorious

In retrospect, I think one lesson from my IDP days sticks out most: Christians share vastly different cultures, languages, assumptions about ‘proper church behavior’ and even beliefs about Jesus, but all that’s less important than our shared desire to praise God. In whatever way we do best. My favorite IDP song remains a Spanish language Pentecostal tune called Como Las Aguas del Rio Roughly translated, the words are- “Like the waters of the river when they flow to the sea/so arrives the glory of the Lord into my heart”. I think glory-arriving is possible whether you’re shouting and dancing, or silently meditating to a Celtic version of "Be Thou My Vision".

But the point of multicultural worship isn’t simply to affirm ‘we have more in common than not.’ Nor is it, as some have suggested, rejecting your inherited culture as ‘boring’ or ‘dull’. I means using worship to affirm 1 Corinthians 13:12- “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Experiencing worship from a variety of cultures, in multiple languages, is the same thing as seeing God through another’s eyes, and from vantages we’d never achieve on our own.

Or, if you will, knowing God more fully now, in anticipation of that ‘Great Gittin’ Up Morning’ when it’ll all be made plain.

Grace and Peace,
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