Six Vancouver Mennonite congregations launched the new year by singing, praying and worshipping together in three languages.
The service, held at Sherbrooke Mennonite Church on January 8, brought together 210 members from Point Grey Inter-Mennonite, Peace on 52nd, Sherbrooke Mennonite, Chinatown Peace, First United Spanish Mennonite and Vancouver Vietnamese Mennonite churches. About 40 more people joined online. Simultaneous translation from English into Spanish and Vietnamese was provided.
“We named the worship service ‘Cross Culture’ because we want to be a culture of the cross: surrender, humility, victory, freedom with Jesus at the centre; and we want to be a culture that is curious, respectful and celebrant of the various cultures we come from,” says Kevin Barkowsky, Sherbrooke pastor.
The speaker for the morning was Tim Kuepfer, pastor at Chinatown Peace Church, whose message, entitled “I have a dream,” was based on Luke 6:27-36. He encouraged listeners to live out their Anabaptist peace witness by tackling issues of affordable housing for young people, newcomers, Indigenous people and low income residents.
The Lucerna Community Choir, consisting of members from Point Grey and Chinatown Peace, provided special music, and Point Grey organized and led communion. The event concluded with a pizza lunch.
Combining worship is nothing new for Vancouver churches. “We started having services six times a year and called them ‘Cross Culture: 3 languages = 1 church,’” says Barkowsky.
Jorge Hoajaca is pastor at both Sherbrooke and First United Spanish Mennonite. He explains: “We strongly believe that if the community around the church is multicultural, multilingual and diverse, the church needs to become like that without losing the essence of our faith.”
Last fall the Sherboroke group decided to invite the other English churches in Vancouver to join for worship in January. This was the first time all six congregations had met together. Organizers provided translation for all songs in three languages, as well as having lyrics for the languages on screen so no one would be left out.
“On January 8. the joy of all who attended was unmeasurable,” says Hoajaca. “We will continue pursuing the vision of one day to be one congregation with Sherbrooke Mennonite, FUSMC and the Vietnamese as the core of the new church.”
Janice Kreider, a member of Point Grey, commented, “Seeing people from the various congregations take part in the worship helps us to get to know each other. But the best way of getting to know each other across the Vancouver congregations is by joint endeavors, like the choir and the food bank. We are six small congregations, so if this vision is to move forward, we will need to get to know and trust each other and work together.”
Plans are for FUSMC, Sherbrooke and the Vietnamese congregations to continue to meet together at New Years, Easter, Pentecost, in September, Thanksgiving and Advent. There will be another MC B.C. multi-congregation worship service at Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond on Feb. 26, the day after the MC B.C. annual meeting, with Doug Klassen and Jeanette Hanson of Mennonite Church Canada speaking.
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