Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cross-cultural event focuses on African-American, youth cultures.

Sunshine. Smiles. Good music. Great food. Warm hospitality. Building understanding. Sharing the love of God. These are just a few of the brief ways to describe the 11th Cross-Cultural Consultation and Celebration held April 23-25 in Miami, Fla. Hosted by Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Miami Haitian Church of the Brethren) and Miami First Church of the Brethren, 80 attendees joined together to learn from each other and prepare for sharing witness with others.

Under the theme "The Pentecostal’s Mandate," this year’s consultation kicked off a new emphasis for the next few years: learning about the cultures that form the Church of the Brethren today. Developed in response to a frequent request by past consultation participants, the steering committee hoped an emphasis on the beliefs, customs, and traditions of the various cultural groups among the Brethren will build on the friendships and fellowship that form at each event with a chance to learn about sisters’ and brothers’ experiences and realities. In turn, the Holy Spirit can prepare participants to share their witness across cultures, whether near to home or far away.

Thursday night’s opening worship featured Vicki Minyard of Los Angeles, Calif., speaking about doing more today to share the Good News with those living around us. Minyard shared the story of her recovery and faith journey to become an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. "Wow! It is amazing how God equipped me for such a task through the Holy Spirit," she said.

Friday’s morning session featured a "lectio divina" Bible study on Acts 1:1-9, with many groups reading and sharing in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. The afternoon session focused on the beliefs, traditions, and customs of African-American church members. Featured speakers were pastor Thomas Dowdy and James Washington from Imperial Heights Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles. Dowdy spoke on themes related specifically to church life in an African-American context, such as "talking" to the preacher during the sermon. Washington, a member of the denomination’s Anti-Racism Team, focused on discussing recent history of the African-American experience in contemporary society. Attendees were encouraged to share their own experiences with racism, relationship building, and brokenness.

Dowdy and Washington also team preached during the evening service, following the day’s emphasis on the African-American tradition. The service also featured a posthumous presentation of this year’s "Revelation 7:9 Award" to Guillermo Encarnación of Lancaster, Pa. The award was presented to his wife, Gladys Encarnación. The award honors Encarnación’s dedication to including Hispanic Brethren from the US, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic in the life of the denomination.

Saturday’s morning session was an opportunity for two local young church leaders to present on the culture of youth and young adults. Founa Augustin, from Eglise des Freres Haitiens in Miami, spoke about youth culture in the US. Her presentation included a brief summary of the generations in our society, then discussed how church members and parents can stay in touch with young people and continue to guide them as they grow. Marcus Harden from Miami First Church of the Brethren shared how to include youth and young adults in church life, and their readiness and willingness to be leaders now.

The Saturday afternoon session was led by Darin Short with a presentation on moving toward being an intercultural Church of the Brethren. The evening’s closing worship service was planned and led by youth from the host congregations.

The steering committee also took the privilege during the Friday and Saturday night services to express appreciation for Duane Grady’s and Carol Yeazell’s years of service to intercultural ministry over the last 10 years.

This year’s consultation was shown as a live Webcast, allowing long-distance participation for anyone who found it difficult to travel to Miami. Song requests, questions, and reflections submitted by viewing participants were shared with the larger group, allowing for their inclusion. Consensus among the Webcast participants was that they greatly appreciated the opportunity to share in the experience and hoped it could be continued in the future.

Go to the Bethany Theological Seminary Website to view daily sessions and worship services.

The event was planned and led by the Cross-Cultural Ministries Steering Committee: Founa Agustin, Barbara Daté, Thomas Dowdy, Carla Gillespie, Sonja Griffith, Robert Jackson, Nadine Monn, Marisel Olivencia, Gilbert Romero, and Dennis Webb. Next year’s Cross-Cultural Consultation and Celebration will be held on April 23-25, 2010, with the site to be announced.

-- Nadine Monn is a member of the Cross-Cultural Ministries Steering Committee.

Source: 5/20/2009 Newsline

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