Great Multitude Symposium Considers the Intercultural Vision of Church

Photo by Mandy Garcia.

By Gimbiya Kettering

The 50 participants at the “Great Multitude Symposium” Oct. 25-27 in Virlina District ranged from retired pastors to young adults. They traveled from California, and just a few miles down the mountain from the conference center. They spoke Hausa, German, Spanish, and English.

It seems possible, then, to say that the symposium brought together people truly representative of the many tribes, peoples, and languages in the Church of the Brethren. They were diverse, yet unified in the desire to make a biblically based vision of an intercultural church a reality. (Find a link to a photo album of The Great Multitude Symposium at .)

The vision was articulated and affirmed in the “Separate No More” paper adopted by the 2007 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren. The paper provides a foundational framework that is at once scriptural and communal.

To start off, Barbara Daté led a session that helped symposium participants get to know one another and share about their cultural roots.

Photo by Mandy Garcia.

Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman reminded attendees that Annual Conference papers start with queries from congregations and then return to congregations to be implemented–meaning that everyone has a role in achieving the goal of being a denomination with vibrant intercultural ministries.

Dennis Webb and Jonathan Shively led a creative session about the meaning of the word “intercultural” and how to be more effective in relating across cultures.

Then, with the “Separate No More” paper in front of them, participants engaged in small group conversations about how to implement the vision. Each group reported urgency and excitement for becoming more active in intercultural ministries at all levels of the church.

The excitement and new perspectives carried over to a panel discussion about Hispanic congregations that featured Daniel D’Oleo, Lidia Gonzales, Gilbert Romero, and Carol Yeazell. The day closed with a tradition from past intercultural gatherings–a concert by the Bittersweet Gospel Band.

After a hearty Southern-style brunch, Sunday morning services were held at Roanoke (Va.) First Church of the Brethren. A bilingual worship time was co-hosted by the Roanoke First and Roanoke Renacer congregations.

Daniel D’Oleo of Roanoke Renacer and Dava Hensley of Roanoke First, along with Virlina District executive minister David Shumate, worked closely with Congregational Life Ministries staff to make the conference possible.

Photo by Mandy Garcia
The Intercultural Ministries Advisory Committee, October 2013: (from left) Robert Jackson, Barbara Daté, Dennis Webb, and Gilbert Romero. Thomas Dowdy was honored in absentia.

Revelation 7:9 Award announced

When Barbara Daté, Thomas Dowdy (in absentia), Robert Jackson, Gilbert Romero, and Dennis Webb were called to the front of the room, they thought it was going to be a routine introduction of the Intercultural Ministries Advisory Committee. Instead, to their surprise, they were honored with the Revelation 7:9 Award.

Since 2008, the Revelation 7:9 Award has recognized individuals who have been passionate advocates for intercultural ministries in the Church of the Brethren. Few people have been more involved than this committee, whose cumulative involvement can be counted in terms of decades. The honorees were quick to name former members of the committee who were not present, and to call up others present who had worked with them in the past and helped bring the movement to where it is today.

— Gimbiya Kettering is coordinator of intercultural ministries for the Church of the Brethren. Find a link to a photo album of The Great Multitude Symposium by Mandy Garcia at .

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