By Cailey Morgan
The multicultural makeup of Canadian cities makes for beautiful diversity and learning opportunities. It also creates its own set of challenges in the Church, as we work to worship and serve together despite differences in language and culture.
What does being international look like at your church?
Rev. Awlwyn Balnave, Bonavista Baptist, Calgary: The Spanish speaking people in our congregation decided quite early on, after examining the situation in more detail, to simply join with Bonavista and thus in every way become one with us.
Rev. Bill Dyck, First Baptist Calgary: Being international for FBC looks like a mosaic of people and congregations from over 30 national backgrounds. We prefer the term “inter-cultural.” By this we mean that we want all of the people from different ethnic congregations and backgrounds to interact with each other through multiple connections. We want the Indonesians (who are renting), and the Latino congregation, and the Ethiopian congregation to be interacting with each other as well as with the Anglo congregation which is a mosaic in and of itself. These multiple connections result in us being one body while still honoring our cultural diversity.
Who are the various groups within FBC, and how does it work? Policies, money, leadership, discipleship, shared mission?
Rev. Awlwyn Balnave, Bonavista Baptist, Calgary: Initially we had considered forming a separate congregation, one which would still come under the umbrella of Bonavista but which would worship on Sundays and lead small groups in Spanish. The final outcome of simply having one church body has worked well for us.
Rev. Bill Dyck, First Baptist Calgary:
The English language service is attended by people from 15-20 ethnic backgrounds. While the Anglo meet in the main sanctuary an Ethiopian congregation meets in the chapel. The Latino service in the afternoon, is also quite nationally diverse. After the Latino service, our church is used by an Indonesian congregation. There is also a sizeable Filipino group that meets in homes on Saturdays but worships in the Anglo congregation on Sundays.
By way of policies we expect all groups to be in agreement with key Baptist beliefs. The Ethiopian and Hispanic congregations have a unified budget with the Anglo congregation. We try to have representation on the FBC Board from the Hispanics and at times with the Ethiopians as needed.
We have some joint services and potlucks. These are around Easter and Christmas but might also revolve around important events in the ethnic congregations.
Once a month we have Mosaic ministers meeting with representation from all of the pastors and pastoral staff–an international ministerial meeting.
What’s fun about international ministries working together? What’s hard?
Rev. Awlwyn Balnave, Bonavista Baptist, Calgary: One aspect we have lacked and which would have proved useful would have been to have been able to provide someone to teach and lead a small group in Spanish. This did not prove to be a possibility for us unfortunately.
However, having various cultures worship as one body at Bonavista has added greatly to the richness of our fellowship times together as we have interacted one with the other.
Rev. Bill Dyck, First Baptist Calgary:
What’s fun is eating each other’s food, learning each other’s languages, being attentive to cultural differences. It’s also great to hear sermons and special music from the pastors and worship leaders from the various congregations.
What’s difficult is sharing kitchens where different foods are prepared in different ways. It can also be difficult to get people to interact with meaningful level with the language and cultural barriers.
It is neat how God keeps bringing new people and congregations to us. There are always new people at ESL and just recently we have been joined by an Indonesian congregation. Sometimes we have some quite unusual opportunities. On Sunday, a young professional couple from Beijing asked to be baptized before heading back to China. So on Tuesday we had an impromptu interview in which they shared their testimonies which included having seen a vision of Christ, in which Christ talked to the husband who had been an atheist. They were baptized and returned with certificates and hearts fill with joy, and many tears at the parting.
What does it mean to be intercultural in your context? Share your thoughts at churchplantingatcbwc.wordpress.com.
This article originally published in CBWC’s monthly e-newsletter Making Connections.