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Worship in LA

Los Angeles is a city of nations. Aside from the fact that the white community is not the majority and Latinos make up almost half of the population, did you know that global communities of Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, Armenians, and Syrians, among others, significantly influence the culture of LA?

Can you imagine a global-local community coming across differences to praise God? What does the church look like in this context? What happens when this diverse group of people gather to glorify God for his person and actions? Multiethnic worship happens! Or at least it should. It’s pretty clear what I mean by a “diverse” group, but what do I mean by multiethnic worship? Let me clarify:

Multiethnic worship is worship that acknowledges, honors, and embodies the diversity of people in the local and global church.

global worship“Celebration” by John August Swanson, 1997 *

CCDA worship in L.A. is going to look different than in years past. As a team, we have selected songs that represent our communities (Latino, African American, Korean American, and Syrian). Sharing our songs allow us to tell our story. Sharing our stories helps us to honor and acknowledge that we each have a distinct experience of God. Each community has a history that has shaped us deeply. Sharing our songs with one another and inviting one another into worship also helps us to enter into solidarity with one another. I sing songs that tell your story and invite you to sing songs that tell mine. It’s not simply about a drum rhythm or the language being sung, it’s deeper than that.

As a pastor of a local church, I get to enter into the lives of the people in both my congregation and surrounding community. Every Tuesday we have a food pantry that is run by the women in our community. Iliana Zayas and Nancy Rosario, the executive director and programs coordinator of our community development center, give leadership to the pantry. Elsie Rodriguez, an elder at Grace and Peace Community Church, oversees the church plant that started after the people in the community decided they wanted to meet for prayer and worship before pantry. It is a group of mostly women from all different generations that gather weekly. I often hear their worship from my office, I can recite the words of their praises to God:

Demos gracias al Señor
Demos gracias
Demos gracias al Señor

Por las mañanas las aves cantan
las alabanzas a Cristo Salvador.

Y por las tardes las flores cantan
las alabanzas a Cristo Salvador.

Y por las noches los cielos cantan
las alabanzas a Cristo Salvador.

No matter what they are going through, they praise God. They sing, “Give thanks to the Lord! In the morning the birds sing, in the afternoon the flowers sings, in the evening the skies sing praises to Christ our savior.” They thank him in good times, in bad times, in rough times, and when it’s just hard to get yourself up. Whether documented or not, whether fed or not, whether separated from family or not, they praise God. They thank him with joy and song and dance. I hear all of the voices in unison and sometimes, frankly, not even in the same key, but still they offer up to God their sacrifice of praise. Their worship tells a story.

As a second generation Latina, I am proud to be a part of that story. It is not about the beat, rhythm or language. It’s about the heart of worship and the story that is told. Our prayer is that you will enter in with us. Enter into the stories of our team. Enter into the stories of the communities we live in. Enter into one another’s stories as we form a new community.

(Reposted from the CCDA Blog)

*John August Swanson’s serigraph “Celebration” is a joyful portrayal of people uniting in praise and worship. “Celebration” is inspired by the ethnic dances of the Middle East, Russia, Mexico, Africa, India and the sacred dances of the Native Americans. It reflects John Swanson’s love of communal gatherings the world over. The colorful style and complex composition create a beautiful image that commemorates the joy of the human spirit. As the musicians play, the people unite, holding candles up in a festive dance of jubilant celebration.

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