By Sarah Gioe
Photos by Bob Williams
View and share photos from "Together We Can Do More."
Over 150 people from around the synod gathered in the sanctuary of Epiphany Lutheran Church in Hempstead on April 18 for "Together We Can Do More," a multicultural event focused on breaking down barriers and building relationships.
During an upbeat opening worship service filled with praise songs, Bishop Rimbo preached on Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to the disciples in Luke 24, exploring why Jesus identified himself by his hands and feet. "Jesus wanted them to know he had gone through the danger," said Bishop Rimbo. "Some wish he had come back all cleaned up, but he left us something to recognize him by. Isn’t that what this multicultural fest is all about: being the hands and feet of Christ?" He continued to embolden the congregation: "When this amazingly diverse synod--and world--looks around for the risen Christ, it is us they look at." Following the sermon, prayers were offered in Arabic, English, Indonesian, Spanish, Swahili, and Telugu.
Pastor Rubén Durán, ELCA Program Director for New Congregations, gave a keynote address centered on the opportunities for inclusiveness that are unique to our synod. Given the tragic days of violence connected to race that our nation has been experiencing lately ("signs that this is not moving forward as we had hoped") and simple demographics ("since 2012, 51% of babies are born into ethnic communities"), Pr. Durán encouraged participants to push the envelope in the direction of multicultural mission. "The E in ELCA does not stand for European," he said. "No one culture can claim the monopoly of God’s blessing."
Other ELCA multicultural leaders also traveled from Chicago to be part of the conversations, including Pastor Albert Starr, director of ethnic specific and multicultural ministries; Pastor Hector Carrasquillo, Latino ministries program director; Kholoud Khoury, Arab and Middle Eastern ministries program director; Pastor Pongsak Limthongviratn, Asian and Pacific Islander ministries program director; and Pastor Joseph Bocko, African national ministries program director. Participants were then encouraged to meet in ethnic-specific groups to discuss how we cross barriers that divide us, how we can work collaboratively, and how we are all interconnected.
Following lunch, all groups came together to share what they had discussed. Despite language barriers, the Asian group expressed an interest in more collaborative ministries. The European American group talked about the importance of our language and terms. The Latinos, meeting for the first time, were excited about sharing multicultural exchanges through Bible studies and food. The African descent group committed themselves to prayer and hoped to hold healing services. Each group selected a representative to be on a newly-forming Multicultural Committee. Pr. Starr encouraged participants to stand steadfast, reminding them, "This is not easy. If it was easy, it’d be already done. Doing this work with purpose and on purpose requires intentionality."
"I believe this is our first step towards breaking the barriers that divide us," said Pastor Perucy Butiku, Assistant to the Bishop for Global and Cultural Mission. "We will build on this and get to know each other well and work together in collaboration in our ministries. It was a good day of unity--and spiritually uplifting." During the closing worship, everyone committed to pray for another participant for the next year. Pastor Khader El-Yateem gave the sending prayer: "You are the seeds who will be planted to transform the world."