Word of the Week

Our Multicultural Experience

I admit it, "multicultural" is one of my favorite words. I use it a lot, especially when people ask me to describe Washington Plaza.

I also think it is one of America's favorite words. It is a buzz word that everyone wants to use. When I was training to be a teacher while in undergrad, I had to take a "multicultural education" class. While in seminary, several units of study had "multicultural" units. I even took a class called "Pastoral Care in Multicultural Settings."

But, do we really know what it means? Just because we say we have a "multicultural school" or "multicultural community" or even "multicultural church" does it mean that we are actually multicultural?

The more I journey alongside what I think is my "multicultural church" the  more I realize I'm not sure we have grasped the concept quite yet and have MUCH to learn.

But on Sunday, Washington Plaza along with Iglesia Mission Cristina took one big leap into trying to understand it better. As part of our Thanksgiving worship service, we came together, two churches that use the same building each week for worship. Rev. Gallo, the pastor of Mission Cristiana spoke and I shared a few words too. Our choir sang and their praise team led two songs. We sang together well-known hymns in such as "How Great Thou Art" in English and Spanish. And we concluded our service with an observance of communion, the Christian meal of thanksgiving and unity.

I have to say I went into the service yesterday more nervous than if I was preaching a full length controversal sermon.  I was almost a bit panicked when I woke up on Sunday morning.

Would the service start on time? If not, would our congregation get restless?

Would the service flow with all the unique elements within?

How would the different practice of communion go over?

How would the translation affect the rhythm of the service?

And, though the worship service ended up being a beautiful experience of God's diversity as found here in the Reston community, getting there was not a walk in the park. There was messiness in the process.

But, there was a lot of understanding along the way with much laughter (especially as the translators looked to find the best words on the spot, thank you Victor and Damaris). And, there was much joy in our eating together after the service. I believe our congregations on Sunday as we found much hope in what our being together meant for our Christian witness.

And, in reflection of  Sunday, I realized that this is exactly what multiculturalism is all about. Yes, there will be moments of disorder. Yes, there will be moments of panic (especially from this have all your ducks in a row kind of pastor). Yes, there will be times when we just don't understand one another.

Yet, our being together says something important on its own. In our being together, God was present in all of our cultures and this was and is the best gift indeed. We can't wait to worship together again. We already have ideas about how we can be more welcoming to our Hispanic friends the next time . . .