Another reflection on the Christian Community Development Association National Conference, this time on Worship.
CCDA’s member organizations represent communities throughout the world, from primarily African-American urban centers to Latino rural settings to Native-American reservations. Thus, CCDA makes a concentrated effort to express diversity during worship. Part of this includes who is on stage: the worship band included musicians who were African-American, Latina, Asian-American, and Middle-Eastern. No one was a token presence, and the band gelled well together.
But diversity extended beyond who was onstage to include the kind of music that was presented. The first night of the conference began with the Spanish worship song Demos Gracias al Señor:
“Demos Gracias al Señor
Demos Gracias al Señor
Por las mañanas las aves
cantan las alabanzas
a Cristo Salvador”
We also sang “Si tuvieras fe como un grano de mostaza” and “Hay Libertad”, which included this wonderful bridge:
“Que somos libres
Por su sangre
Not to mention other songs that we sang in Arabic and Korean, and songs from different praise traditions.
Sandra Van Opstal, the primary worship leader, pointed out that diversity in worship is not about adding zest or flavor to our worship for our entertainment, or about making us feel sophisticated and urbane. Rather, diverse worship recognizes that all people and all cultures have a place in God’s kingdom. Diverse worship puts to shame the idea that any one culture or one people can claim sole or superior access to God. Diverse worship is an important (however small) corrective to the Church’s long history of eliminating minority voices, of forcing people to forget their “pagan languages” and adopt the “proper Christian tongue of English/French/Spanish/Portuguese/etc.” Diverse worship calls us to remember that the name of God is also Dios, is also 하나님, is also الله (Allāh, which is the name that Arab Christians use for God).
Diverse worship opens us to new ways of experiencing God through the lens of another. One of my favorite worship songs is “除你以外” — “Chu Ni Yi Wai” — “Besides You”, a Chinese worship song based on Psalm 73. Singing this song reminds me of God’s incredible faithfulness to the Chinese church in the face of horrible persecution, and how much joy it brings Him to hear His children sing to Him in their native tongue.
More diverse worship will not solve all the problems of racism and xenophobia that are present in the Church. However, such worship will certainly help us on the way to remove the barriers of hostility within our walls.