Archive for category multicultural

A question from a college student

Here’s a note that I received from a former youth group member at my church and my response. I thought it might be helpful for other folks to read – or to add any more comments in response to the student’s questions.

…The reason I am messaging you is because I have a question about leading worship services in many languages. I am a part of Resident’s Life this year in my dorm and am the leader of my team of 12 students, one to represent each floor in my dorm. We are in the process of planning an all-dorm worship night which we have done a few of in the past, but this time we are trying to incorporate diversity of languages in singing and in scripture reading, and praying styles. My question for you is how do you do this authentically and in a way that represents real cultures, people, and languages that are members of the community in a way that makes them feel included but also runs logistically smooth to an extent? I don’t want this to be something we just do because we “should” but because it is a real way to be inclusive of the (somewhat) diverse community that we live in- majority white with Spanish and Korean languages being the two other most represented. My team who is leading and in charge of this event is majority white and we are struggling with wanting to incorporate this form of appreciation for diversity in worship and not wanting to overstep or lead something in a way that would be offensive or divisive. If you have any thoughts for me they would be greatly appreciated. I know this sort of thing is extremely difficult and can easily fail but the Lord has put it on my heart to try to incorporate these conversation topics into our efforts to build community in a dorm that is focused on living for Christ and growing in unity and love for one another. Thank you for taking the time to read all of this and please let me know what you think, Thanks so much… 

Thanks for writing and I find it encouraging that you are even asking these questions – you would be surprised how many people just crash into cultural walls without any sensitivity. I would encourage you and maybe your team to check out these videos made by InterVarsity that kind of address the whole idea of diverse worship in a very winsome manner. http://mem.intervarsity.org/mem/diverseworship

The next step would be to get some of the “non-white” folks in the conversation with you so that you are able to ask them for input. This is not just “tokenism” – it’s about relationship and giving away control. Tokenism happens when an all white leadership plans the songs and then asked a non-white person to sing with the team as a “token” of diversity. Reconciliation is about sharing the space and sharing the power. Is there a Hispanic or Korean campus group that you can connected with? Are there any local congregations from these cultures that you can connect with and ask to learn from? These are big steps, but a little step is to maybe just take the song We Fall Down by Chris Tomlin and sing it in several languages – just to affirm that these languages are part of the community.

You are right to not want to overtly offend, but there will be people who are offended (especially from the white mainstream) and there’s kind of no way to avoid that. The kingdom of God breaks down walls of division and that’s going to bother people who take comfort in their own safe spaces. There’s also a good chance you might offend some one who’s not white (maybe they think you are exploiting their culture). That’s to be expected as well. Trust in the Holy Spirit to break down relational barriers through healing worship and not in your ability to plan your way around conflict (speaking from experience).

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Sanctus from Bach’s Mass in B Minor

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

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Diverse Worship Matters

I deeply appreciate these videos created by InterVarsity’s video production crew, twentyonehundred . They have re-framed the conversation about worship styles to emphasis something that I’ve always believed – that worship should be diverse in style out of love and mutual submission  that looks a lot like sharing a meal together.

These clips could function as a good conversation starter for a team of musicians, pastors, youth leaders, etc who are exploring the idea of diverse worship. It’s also a breath of fresh air in a time when the church is having hard and painful conversations about race and ethnicity. Brothers and sisters in Christ do need to have hard conversations, but they need to happen in the context of relationships that are fueled by gospel-based hospitality.

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It’s Friday, so Tito Puente

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Congratulations, Michelle

I’ve known Michelle Higgins for about 20 years. We were in the youth group together at New City Fellowship (PCA) in Chattanooga. We also attended Chattanooga Christian School together where we both sang in the choir and even performed in a stage adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” together. (I was Mr. Darcy and Michelle was the mother, “Mrs. Bennett.”) Later, in college, we were ministry interns at that same church for a summer where we had some crazy times learning about how to love and serve as church staff. Later, we were able to hang out again when she and her family relocated back to St Louis where I currently live. Michelle came here to get her MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary, the denominational seminary of the Presbyterian Church in America. Since then, we’ve been able to collaborate on a number of events and our churches, New City Fellowship in St Louis (PCA) and South City Church (PCA) have been able to grow together as sister congregations in our presbytery.

I finally got to watch her talk this morning (I’ve been chasing my kids around, gimme a break) and I want to say that I personally endorse and support everything she said. I know she’s getting flack about what was said about adoption/abortion, and I want to say a hearty “AMEN” about her comments. I am now an adoptive parent and I have been a foster parent of 10 other children. I believe that abortion is murder, but the church in America can’t shout about abortion legislation without putting foster care and adoption in that same conversation.

If you watch her message at Urbana 2015 and think that she’s “blaming white people” or promoting hate of some kind, then I’m sharing all this to let you know from my personal experience that Michelle Higgins loves White folks. Her life is a testimony of the reconciling power of the Holy Spirit to break down the walls of division. In my 20 years of knowing her, she has been a compassionate and prophetic voice to both White and Black folks (and more).

I deeply respect her for being willing to say things that will get criticized. I’m not too comfortable even writing this endorsement because of the flack that I might get! But we need prophetic voices to say these things and not flinch. So, Michelle, thank you and congratulations for how God is using you at such a time as this.

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Come to #MusiCon15


simple_graphicNew City Music Conference 2015 is shaping up. We are getting registrations slowly but I fully expect 2/3 of the conference to register at the last minute. I’m so thrilled to have our line up of speakers and breakout leaders. It seems to get better and better every time we pull one of these together. If you haven’t done it yet, please check out the conference details and register at www.ncfmusic.com/conference/

Carrie Jones is the conference director this time. Carrie was involved in the 2011 conference we had here in St. Louis as the graphic designer and she created the conference notebook which was so full of information and resources that people wanted to get the notebook even though they couldn’t attend the conference. Carrie is also a long time member of NCF (@NCFStLouis) and as well as a highly qualified musician on our team.

The conference steering committee was made up of myself (@kirkwardmusic), my dad (@jcalvinward), and my long time friend, Michelle Higgins (@fast_foodie). We went out to lunch when my dad was here in March and hammered out the rough outline of who and what will be featured at this year’s conference.

I hope that you consider coming. If you are from the local region, we would love to meet you or connect again with you to be able to encourage each other in the struggle. If you are from out of town, we would to meet and connect as well and to hear what is going on in other communities. So much has happened in our nation this year that has served to break down our facades and to reveal the areas where we are divided and broken. The gospel has the power to heal communities when it is planted in soil that will let it thrive and produce fruit. Let’s live the gospel of reconciliation and justice that is available to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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New songs from Congo and Kenya

Two weeks ago, we had another African worship service at New City Fellowship. I enjoyed working on the service, but Friday night before the rehearsal, I got to experience the stomach bug that’s been going around. So even though I was out for the rest of the weekend, I wanted to share two of the songs that we added to the repertoire that weekend.

Moyo is from Congo and in Lingala, it’s basically saying, “Greetings Mother, Father, Youth” in the chorus. The verses say, “You can’t get to heaven by your riches, wisdom, strength, but you have to be changed by Jesus.”

Amenitendea is supposedly a classic song in Kenya. My wife says she remembers singing the song when she lived there as a missionary kid. In Swahili, it’s saying, “He has done it for me!” and the following verses go into what he’s done: “Saved me, blessed me, etc.” and then  it’s offering praises.

I hope to have charts for both of these up on ncfmusic.com in the near future.

 

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Prog-rock, the Coke ad, post-RJC14, and a iii-vi-ii-V worship tune for Black History Month

A few quick items from the last two weeks:

My buddy, Santo Garofalo, has successfully funded a recording project through kickstarter! Santo is the pastor of New City Fellowship in Atlantic City, and unlike most PCA pastors, he is also a face-melting shred guitarist. It’s encouraging to me to see a fellow cross-cultural, justice-minded brother get crowd-funded to produce a recording. I have songs to record, and I hope that it won’t be long before I can get a kickstarter campaign started for myself. Please pray that the Lord will make a way somehow for me to make another recording.

This commercial is good. America is hopefully a beautiful place to everyone who immigrates here from all over the world (and to those whose ancestry goes back to before English was ever spoken here.) As a music guy who leads some worship in non-English every weekend, I can relate to the joy expressed in this ad. I also recommend the interview clips with the ladies who sang the non-English portions for a little more context. As far as the racist and ethnocentric reactions to it, I say overcome evil with good, y’all. May justice and righteousness begin in the church. 

Our Reconciliation and Justice Conference was a lot of fun, especially playing and working with other musicians from our sister churches. I’m looking forward to seeing how God is going to build stronger bonds with some of these fellows musicians in STL. Ronnie Perry stayed in our home during the conference. Ronnie is part of a cross-cultural church plant in Durham, NC called Christ Central Church. It was nice to hear about the work there and to get to know him better. If you are in Durham, you should check out their ministry. 

Speaking of Durham, we are introducing a new (actually old) song by Durham’s native son, John P. Kee, this weekend called “I Do Worship.” This song is from a classic 1997 recording of The New Life Community Choir called “Strength”. Definitely check out this tune as well as “Lord, Help Me To Hold Out” and one of our church’s favorites “Clap Your Hands”. Jazz geeks: “I Do Worship” is like an etude for the iii-vi-ii-V progression. Here’s a link to where you can purchase sheet music.

 

 

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Video from last weekend’s African Cultural Emphasis Sunday

Christelle Mukendi (the second singer from the left) uploaded these videos onto youtube. Thanks, Christelle!

“Il est Bon De Louer Dieu” was a new song for our church. It’s basically about how God is good and he is able to hear our cry for help – so why not call on him?

“Ta Grâce” was also a new song. I found this one on iTunes and it appears to be from a French group called “Glorious” (They’re kind of a Hillsongs type sound.) It’s a nice balance of simple for the Americans and yet packed with “son-ship” truth that we like to use at the beginning of our services.

At this point in the service, we sang “How Great is Our God” in French with choruses at the end in English and Lingala.

“Eh Yawhe Kumama” is a BIG hit from the DR Congo. It was written by my friend Athoms in Lingala and our church has come to really love it. Here’s the clip of Athoms and his group doing this song. “Yawhe Kumama” means “Lord, be glorified.”

“Anyataka” is crowd-pleaser that we learned last summer from Athoms. It is a celebration of our victory in Christ over satan. Athoms called the style “folkloric” and the language is Lingala.

“Nitamwimbia Bwana” or “Ameniona” is another favorite of our congregation. It’s in Swahili, and Rachel is seen here leading it, but we know that it is sung in the DR Congo as well.  “Ameniona” means He sees me. You can get sheet music for this song is on ncfmusic.com.

“Yesu Azali Awa” is an older, traditional song that is sung at almost every Congolese worship service that I’ve been a part of. It’s in Swahili as well. We opted to sing this more simply with voice and percussion as we were taking the Lord’s Supper. The song says, “Jesus is here, Jesus is life, Jesus is light, etc.”

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Fadhili Zake ni Za Milele (His love Endures Forever) By Reuben Kigame & Sifa Voices

Fadhili Zake ni Za Milele (His love Endures Forever) By Reuben Kigame & Sifa Voices.

One of my all time favorite songs ever – sung by dancing sunflowers

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