“Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16).
Drawing inspiration from Romans 12:15-17, approximately 100 Church of the Brethren members gathered to worship and work together at Camp Harmony in Pennsylvania. From April 22-25, the camp hosted people from congregations across the US and Puerto Rico, representing many ethnic groups including African Americans, white Americans, and Spanish speakers from around the world.
Previously known as the Cross-Cultural Celebration and Consultation, this 12th Intercultural Consultation and Celebration was both a continuation of work from previous years and a movement in a new direction, guided by the denomination’s Intercultural Advisory Committee and Rubén Deoleo, director of Intercultural Ministry.
There were a variety of activity options for participants. A Bible study workshop on Brethren core values and diversity was led by pastor Tim Monn of Midland (Va.) Church of the Brethren. An intensive workshop on the Friendly Style Profile explored individual and cultural diversity, uplifting strengths and gifts while identifying skills to better understand and prevent dysfunctional conflict, taught by Barbara Daté of the Intercultural Advisory Committee and Oregon and Washington District. A session on mentoring was offered by Stan Dueck, the denomination’s director of Transforming Practices. As always, there was lively worship in a variety of styles and languages that was a restorative for many participants.
Pastor Samuel Sarpiya of Rockford (Ill.) Community Church of the Brethren and On Earth Peace delivered the opening sermon and set the tone for the event. He spoke eloquently about how the church’s peace heritage has influenced his work in the Rockford community following a police shooting in a black neighborhood. Sarpiya reminded the consultation that working toward peace is an important foundation for a multicultural congregation and an important message to share with our wider communities.
The Friday evening dinner was brought and shared by about 20 congregations from the host district of Western Pennsylvania, providing a treat in the form of favorite “traditional” Germanic/European recipes.
That night’s worship service featured Ray Hileman, pastor of Miami (Fla.) First Church of the Brethren. Before a mixed group of consultation participants and members of the host district, he challenged churches to begin intensive work to becoming intercultural. He spoke of being one race (human), one culture (Christian), and united by one color (red, representing Jesus’ blood spilled for us). The third annual “Revelation 7:9 Diversity Award” was presented to Carol Yeazell for her support of racial/ethnic and intercultural ministries.
Closing worship on Saturday was led by Don Mitchell of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. Without a formal sermon, the inspiring service allowed attendees to find harmony through such diverse music as a Latin jazz-influenced prelude, several Spanish choruses, a Haitian hymn, traditional African-American gospel songs, the hymn “Move In Our Midst,” and well-known praise choruses. The service featured reflections by Belita Mitchell, pastor of Harrisburg First Church; Joel Peña, pastor of Iglesia Alfa y Omega in Lancaster, Pa.; and Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries.
English to Spanish interpretation for worship services and plenary gatherings was provided by Nadine Monn, Marisel Olivencia, Gilbert Romero, Jaime Diaz, and Ruby Deoleo. All three worship services, musical gathering times, the session by Stan Dueck, and the workshop by Tim Monn were webcast in partnership with Bethany Theological Seminary, with assistance from Enten Eller, the seminary’s director of Distributed Education and Electronic Communication. Recordings are available at www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcast/intercultural2010 .
According to the Intercultural Advisory Committee’s mission statement, this annual event is intended to enrich and strengthen the Church of the Brethren by our unity as people of all colors, modeling for the larger church the blessings of being one as God’s people. Its attendees returned to their congregations re-energized and with fresh ideas about how to belong to an intercultural Christian community.
— Gimbiya Kettering is communications coordinator for On Earth Peace, and Nadine Monn is a member of the Intercultural Advisory Committee. Committee member Barbara Daté also contributed.