2011- BIG TENT: ‘We all belong to one God’. Multicultural ministry celebrated at Big Tent

Indianapolis (PNS) The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s National Multicultural Church Conference celebrated a decade of denominational multicultural ministry on July 1 during the conference’s first plenary session at the denomination’s Big Tent event.

Board members of the Presbyterian Multicultural Network told the group that the number of PC(USA) multicultural congregations and participation in the annual conference had seen significant growth over the past 10 years. The number of multicultural congregations has grown from 200 in 2000 to approximately 1,750 today. The first national conference drew 80 participants compared with 460 in 2010.

Attendees were invited to talk about what they had experienced by participating in the PC(USA)’s multicultural ministry.

Rev. Robert Chesnut, pastor emeritus of East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, praised the work of the Rev. Raafat Girgis, associate for multicultural congregational support for the PC(USA)’s General Assembly Mission Council.

Chesnut said that he called Girgis shortly after Girgis was hired in 2001 and invited him to preach at East Liberty. “He has applied his energy, imagination and love to what is happening” in PC(USA) multicultural ministry, said Chesnut, who retired as pastor of East Liberty in 2002.

Rev. James Mason Lee, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship, a Presbyterian congregation in Austin, Texas, said his faith had been enriched by meeting people from different ethnicities. He also commended the expansion of an annual multicultural youth conference held at Mo Ranch Conference Center from a Synod of the Sun gathering into a national event. “Our children are able to see diverse children from across the nation,” he said.

Rev. Deborah McEachran, pastor of Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, said that members of her congregation had consistently attended the annual conference. “That made (the congregation) ready for me to serve,” she said.

Rashid Gill, an elder at Grace Presbyterian Church in Plano, Texas, said his participation in the PC(USA)’s multicultural ministry has reminded him that “we all belong to one God.”

In response, Girgis said, “I am looking forward to that day in Louisville when there will no longer be a need for an office of multicultural ministry because we are living the vision of Pentecost.” He also thanked grassroots Presbyterians who were already doing multicultural ministry before it became a national denominational program.

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