2011- Big Tent: Seeking ways to welcome all peoples: Panel discusses models of ministry

INDIANAPOLIS (PNS) Diverse models of multicultural ministry were
showcased during a panel discussion at the National Multicultural Church
Conference July 1 at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Big Tent event.

Ayo Johnson of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Trenton, N.J., said
the church began its journey toward being a multicultural congregation 30
years ago when its pastor realized the predominately European American
congregation’s makeup did not reflect the population of the surrounding

The commitment to being multicultural has continued under the leadership
of the Rev. Karen Hernández-Granzen, who has served the congregation for
the past 15 years, said Johnson, who is executive director of the affiliated
Westminster Community Life Center.

Today Westminster’s membership much more closely resembles the ethnic
diversity of the community, which is 12 percent European American, 24
percent Latino and 64 percent African American, Johnson said. She noted
that the congregation has a variety of outreach ministries and different
languages are spoken and sung in worship. “Westminster’s mission is to be a
house of prayer for all nations,” she said.

The Rev. Jud Hendrix, pastor of Covenant Community Church in Louisville,
said the congregation started as a New Church Development (NCD) 10 years
ago seeking to reach “the culture of the spiritual but not religious.” Hendrix
said the church’s attendees now include international families and that
about one-third of the congregation comes from the “gay, lesbian, queer”

“We’re dealing with cultures not just racial ethnic cultures,” Hendrix said.
He emphasized that the congregation is committed to sharing power and all
members are invited to preach.

At Arab Christian Church in Richmond, Va., the Arabic language worship
services are translated in order to welcome English-speaking worshipers,

said its pastor, the Rev. Fakkhri Yacoub.

The congregation is “nested” at Third Presbyterian Church and some of
Arab Christian’s younger people attend both the morning English-speaking
service at Third Presbyterian and Arab Christian’s afternoon service,
Yacoub said. Some, he added, have affiliated with Third Presbyterian.

In the days following Sept. 11, 2001, Third Presbyterian members prayed
with Arab Christian members and accompanied them to malls and other
public venues. Yacoub said the intent was “to give the community the
message that we are brothers and sisters.”

Rev. Leonel Pech and his wife, Sybel, told about their involvement in a
bilingual ministry in Fort Wayne, Ind. In 2004, after the couple moved from
Mexico to Fort Wayne, they started offering English classes, tutoring and
other services to the city’s growing Hispanic population.

The ministry became a worshiping community in 2008 known as Amistad
Christiana (Christian Friendship), which is now a NCD of Whitewater
Valley Presbytery. In addition to his ministry duties with Amistad Cristiana,
Leonel Pech serves as district parent coordinator with the Fort Wayne
Community Schools.

Elise Witt, a singer and composer from Pine Lake, Ga., shared from
her experience using singing to help create community among diverse
people. “We were born as human beings to sing and we were born to share
our stories through song,” she said.

Pat Cole is a communications specialist in Communications and Funds
Development. He is covering the National Multicultural Conference at Big
Tent for PNS.