Three congregations, one family
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20 NRSV
Three culturally different worshipping congregations gathered for a morning worship service with a difference at Warley Baptist Church, writes Peter Spence
At Warley Baptist Church in the West Midlands there are three culturally different worshipping congregations in the one building. There is Ministerio Kadosh Brazilian congregation which meets on a Saturday night; Warley Baptist Church which meets on a Sunday morning; and Birmingham Chinese Christian Church, which meets on a Sunday afternoon.
The idea and vision for the this particular morning on Sunday (19 January) was to be in the space together and worship God, recognising our diversity and celebrating our unity. Sometimes I think it is too easy for us as Baptists to get hung up on our independence, and autonomy, so we decided to celebrate our interdependence.
So with three congregations, three main languages and three different worship groups we gathered.
The morning started with Warley Baptist Church leading worship in English, then we had the Birmingham Chinese Christian Church choir lead us in some worship in Cantonese.
Our sermon was based around Hebrews 11 and how living a life of faith is about being prepared to step out of what we know and take the risk of following God to something new.
The sermon was delivered by Warley’s minister Peter, and was translated into Cantonese and Portuguese.
After the sermon we prayed the ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ simultaneously, each in their own language. There is something very profoundly powerful about being amongst God’s family where we are all expressing the same thing but doing that in our own languages; this was a moment of really sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit amongst us.
Next up was the worship band from Kadosh and they led us in some vibrant, lively, exuberant worship. It was truly amazing to see people moving and dancing as they were moved by the Spirit of God and the sheer joy and excitement in the room.
We then moved to the Communion Table to share together. The children, who had been having their own multi-congregation Sunday School, led by their amazing Sunday School teachers, re-joined the adults to enable the whole family to be together at the Table, a truly beautiful time.
To finish, we interviewed the children so they could tell us what they had been doing, and then sang the hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’ in all three languages. The morning concluded with lunch and time to chat and just be His family together. It was a powerful and breath-taking morning and something that we all want to repeat.
It is so easy for us to lose our sense that we are part of the global family of Christ. We get trapped into our small independence when the reality is a global interdependence of people made in the image of God.
Jesus said that we are to love God and love our neighbour and that all the law and prophets hang on love.
What most people didn’t see at the worship service was that much earlier, when the first person arrived to open up the building, there was a rough sleeper in the buggy shelter at the side of building. It would have been so easy to be preoccupied with the event and miss the opportunity to show love, compassion and mercy to ‘the least of these’. The rough sleeper had no idea that he blessed us by his presence.
It is suggested that John Chrysostom said that if we can’t find Jesus in the beggar at the church door, we won’t find him in the chalice, or in this case, the joy filled worship event. I am proud to be part of a community of God’s people who are prepared to be radical with love and mercy and are prepared to take risks as they hear and do what God is asking of them.
My prayer for us all is that we take the risk of following the new things God is leading each of us to.
Peter Spence is the minister of Warley Baptist Church