LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Cláudio Carvalhaes, associate professor of liturgy and worship at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, spoke on “praying the faith in a multicultural context” Aug. 2 during a joint plenary session at the Big Tent event at the Louisville International Convention Center.
As his main point, Carvalhaes said, “church will only happen if we feel that we need each other.” Praying multiculturally acknowledges this and requires give-and-take, he said.
Carvalhaes challenged those present to consider how their prayers might change if they were to pray in the midst of strangers. “It matters where you pray and with whom you pray,” said Carvalhaes, adding that it also changes the understanding of God and even life itself. He spoke of the need for willingness to disrupt one’s sense of safety to join in prayer with others – even strangers – who differ from you.
According to Carvalhaes, prayer can also be an entry point into others’ lives. “How do we see our differences?” he asked.
Just as the Trinity demonstrates that God’s unity is made of multiple sources and manifestations, he said, so is unity always plural, and therefore believers experience connection and multiplicity under the unity of God’s love.
Carvalhaes also emphasized the acceptance of social media’s growing role. As the virtual shapes the society, it has become a language the church needs to learn, he said.
He noted that pastoral opinion used to exert significant cultural influence, but now interpretation of faith is expected to remain open to the whole community. Under healthy pastoral guidance, he said, this can build dialogue and create new neighbors. He believes that looking at social media as a way of enhancing prayer in a multicultural context can bless the community and forge new bonds.
The work of prayer and liturgy is the work of the people, not the reasonability of a singular leader, Carvalhaes said. If we are to truly pray in a multicultural context, he said, we have to figure out faith together.