St. Paul’s Growing into a Multi-Ethnic Congregation

April 07, 2015

St. Paul’s UMC's (Asheville, NC) exploration of Multi-Ethnic Congregation started when the pastor (In-Yong Lee) and a lay leader attended Mark DeYmaz’ seminar in Concord on March 1-2, 2013. St. Paul’s was seeking ways in which they could be revitalized. Out of many seminars and lectures that the pastor had attended, DeYmaz’ seminar provided the vision that she was looking for and the lay leader was in complete agreement with her. They then shared their passion with the Administrative Council, which studied DeYmaz’s book, Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, together. Afterwards, the Administrative Council decided that St. Paul’s would grow into a multi-ethnic church, which was shared with the whole congregation at a later date. Since then, a year-long multi-ethnic coaching was done among the five congregations which shared the same passion, including St. Paul’s, led by DeYmaz himself. The monthly coaching started at Cokesbury UMC, Charlotte on March 8, 2014, mostly through Zoom in the following months, and ended with a big celebration at Crossroads UMC, Concord on February 28, 2015. The five churches talked with one another, sharing their experiences in multi-ethnic efforts and asking DeYmaz questions. They learned a lot from those sessions and were greatly encouraged. St. Paul’s had been a predominantly white church but had long been known for its openness to diversity: it is one of the churches in the city which welcomed non-white people early on, which is seen in the stained glass window that has diverse ethnic children with Jesus; and it welcomed their pastor, who is an Asian female, in 2007 and has loved and supported her ever since. So, the church is building on their own strength. [caption id="attachment_5016" align="alignright" width="276"]Native American artifacts displayed at Native American Cultural Celebration (May 25, 2014) Native American artifacts displayed at Native American Cultural Celebration (May 25, 2014)[/caption] There have been great developments in their efforts. They used DeYmaz and Okuwobi’s 8-week daily devotional, The Multi-Ethnic Christian Life Primer, during Lent in 2014, to raise the congregation’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural awareness. Throughout the year, they had five cultural celebrations – African-American (Feb. 16), Irish (Mar. 16), Native American (May 18), Hispanic (July 20), and Asian (Nov. 2) – whose main purpose, again, was to raise the congregation’s cultural awareness and to raise the level of their cross-cultural competency, by sharing and appreciating different cultural expressions of the same faith. [caption id="attachment_5019" align="alignright" width="277"]Duke Summer Intern, Stacy Guinto-Salinas (May 30, 2014) Duke Summer Intern, Stacy Guinto-Salinas (May 30, 2014)[/caption] Intentionally, they asked Duke Divinity School to give them a Hispanic student for their Duke Summer Intern. Stacy Guinto-Salinas served from May 25 to August 3, and her internship was very helpful both for the congregation and for herself to grow in cross-cultural ministry. After several months’ efforts, they got the $10,000 Racial and Ethnic Local Church Grant from the UM General Board of Global Ministries in September. With the grant, they started providing simultaneous translation in Spanish and Korean during worship services in December for those who don’t speak English very well, and it is greatly appreciated by those who benefit from it. [caption id="attachment_5021" align="alignleft" width="940"]Congregation at Asian Cultural Celebration (Nov. 2, 2014) Congregation at Asian Cultural Celebration (Nov. 2, 2014)[/caption] They also started Spanish-Speaking Small Group in March, 2014, which has been meeting monthly. Individuals first develop trusting, meaningful relationships within small groups and then they extend that relationship to the larger body. Because of the cultural, language barriers, different language groups can benefit from the small group settings in which they can communicate in their own language and culture, with some willing cross-cultural individuals among them. With Asheville Literacy Council’s help, they started two ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes at church. [caption id="attachment_5018" align="alignleft" width="3264"]Spanish-Speaking Small Group meeting at Brooks-Howell Home (July 9, 2014) Spanish-Speaking Small Group meeting at Brooks-Howell Home (July 9, 2014)[/caption] The church’s new website that is expecting its completion soon, emphasizes their being a multi-ethnic church from its front page. They also advertised it in a local Hispanic magazine, Hola Carolina, in its March-April, 2015 issue. Since they started the efforts to grow multi-ethnic, they have gained multiple new members, including a few ethnic people. Still, it takes time for the rest of the congregation to embrace the vision and passion fully, as it would be the case with any existing, rather homogeneous congregation to grow multi-ethnic. As DeYmaz tells us, it will take patience, persistence, and perseverance. And we will do it, because “If the kingdom of heaven is not segregated, why on earth is the Church?”[1] In-Yong Lee, Pastor of St. Paul’s UMC In-Yong Lee can be reached at ilee@wnccumc.net [1] Mark DeYmaz, Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation (San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007), p. 4. Another resource from Mark DeYamaz, Mosaix Global Network Catalyzing the Movement toward Multi-ethnic Churches in the 21st century for the sake of the Gospel.
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