Pullman Christian Reformed Church’s diversity in worship is a result of the efforts of our membership and staff as well as our commitment to meet the needs of the community in which we reside.
Located in the Chicago neighborhood of Roseland, PCRC is in the heart of an area where 97 percent of the residents are African American. We maintain an awareness that in order for diversity to be successful, the dominant (originally Dutch) culture cannot demand or assume control. A dual enrichment is fostered because we respect and enjoy each other’s worship and music styles. The material chosen for our liturgy includes the full spectrum of gospel music, Reformed hymns, and contemporary Christian music. The participation of our membership in embracing diversity allows for a beautiful multicultural worship experience.
Roseland was settled in the 1840s by Dutch immigrants. The manufacturing of railroad coaches by George Pullman in the neighboring town named after him made Roseland part of an industrial city. Immigrants from all over the world settled in Roseland. The area became a community made up of people with many different cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Hardships came in the 1960s when industry patterns led to an economic decline and a rapid change in the neighborhood as the folks who could left to where the jobs were. For more than forty years, Roseland has endeavored to recover from a weakening economy and gang violence. Community leaders and residents have come together to bring about much-needed change.
Born out of the turbulent racial tensions in Roseland and surrounding areas in the 1970s, Pullman CRC was established as a place to practice a ministry of reconciliation whose fruits may be witnessed in diverse membership (approximately 70% African American and 30% Caucasian). The diversity of membership created a foundation for diversity in worship.
For 21 years, Helen Breems was the director of music for PCRC, until she retired in 2011. She possessed a vast knowledge of the music of the Christian Reformed faith but was somewhat unfamiliar with teaching gospel music. Nevertheless, she committed to learning the structure and nuances of the genre to ensure diversity in our worship experience. Music resources such as CDs and sheet music were purchased to aid her study, and then Helen taught the material to the choir, song-leading teams, and ensembles, which included a large representation of our congregation. This allowed an easy transition for the material to become well-known congregational songs. Helen gave countless hours to transcribing music, making it accessible to our congregation and easily incorporated in our worship service. Her steadfast commitment to studying music rooted in the African American experience helped Pullman to grow.
Helen was also willing and eager to share the platform when I became a part of the music staff. With the two cultures working together for many years, both have been enriched by each other. Our leadership and the congregation have become more Reformed and we’ve learned to appreciate the richness of gospel music, using qualified people to give us the genuine aspects of all facets of Christian music.
For over 30 years, PCRC has committed financial resources to hiring musicians, specifically keyboard players, who can perform in various styles. In most musical genres, the keyboard or piano serves as the foundation of sound. Hiring a musician who could play various styles of Christian music was and is a crucial part of our success. Without the talent of skilled musicians, achieving a multicultural worship experience would have been very difficult. Skilled minstrels have played an intricate role in liturgical activities for centuries, and Pullman remains committed to compensating skilled talent to enhance worship participation.
In our congregation we also have talented musicians who donate their time and gifts on a weekly basis. Personnel include a percussionist, guitarist, bass guitarist, and two trumpet players—all bringing various experiences, strengths, and years of playing their respective instruments. The age of the musicians varies from teens to mature adults. This collaboration of talents not only creates wonderful musical moments, it displays God’s blessings among all his people.
Over the years, the members of Pullman have enriched each other’s lives tremendously, and we respect and enjoy various worship and music styles. We remain committed to serving our community and to meeting the needs of our multicultural membership through diversity in our worship service. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12).