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Bilingual Ministry: A Foretaste of Heaven

Sunnyside Christian Reformed Church, Washington

The atmosphere was electric. Worshipers came in, greeted each other with friendly chatter, and found seats as close to the front as they could. It was obvious even before the service began that this worship time would be much more energetic and celebratory than what our English-speaking Christian Reformed congregation was used to!

Ten years ago, our church planted a bilingual congregation called Iglesia Evangelica Christiana Reformada. On this morning, the worship team—made up of members of our English-speaking and bilingual congregations—led us through worship in our two languages, both congregations united in our worship of one God.

As the opening of worship neared its conclusion, an English-speaking man behind me nudged my shoulder and said, “This is the kind of worship our congregation needs!” His statement echoed the views of many others in our English-speaking congregation and reflected a greater acceptance within the congregation of different worship styles.

Following God’s Leading

Thirteen years ago our English-speaking congregation had voted not to start a bilingual ministry. Many people remember that as a dark period in our church and felt that God was not pleased by the dissention among us. Three years later the congregation voted again—this time deciding (by a large majority) to plant a bilingual ministry. We were finally ready to follow God’s leading.

We began by worshiping together four times a year. At first people from the English-speaking congregation came as a sign of support for the new bilingual ministry we had helped to begin. But they continued to come for the love they felt there and the enthusiastic, authentic worship they experienced together.

The ministry at Iglesia Evangelica Christiana Reformada will celebrate ten years this coming December. During that time the bilingual church has expanded to two full-time pastors and the congregation has grown. And since then we have started two more bilingual ministries in nearby towns.

A Foretaste of Heaven

Over the last ten years these shared worship times (the English-speaking and the bilingual congregations) have continued on a quarterly basis. In addition, our community has embraced bilingual worship for community-wide services of celebration several times during the year.

Both congregations—Hispanic and English-speaking—have benefitted from participating in each other’s style of worship.

Our English-speaking congregation has been blessed to see that enthusiastic worship is no less worshipful than the more subdued style that it was used to. We’ve come to realize that the energetic worship of the bilingual congregation stems from sincere joy flowing from people’s hearts. Though not all in the English-speaking congregation participate in shared events with our Hispanic brothers and sisters, these shared worship services and meals continue to attract more participants. Those who once were antagonistic towards “planting” a Hispanic ministry soon found themselves sitting down with and learning from their Hispanic neighbors.

The bilingual congregation has come to appreciate the parts of the English-speaking worship that lead them into a more subdued time of introspection and contemplative worship. As worship administrator for several years, I was privileged to be a part of the planning for some of those combined services. It was a joy to explain why we in the English-speaking congregation did things a certain way, and thus help people from another culture come to appreciate that sincere worship takes place in a variety of settings and formats.

Together both congregations have come to a better understanding of one another, and we have seen how different worship styles are a great blessing! Together we are experiencing a foretaste of heaven—where all races and cultures will join together in the worship of the one true God!

Excerpts

By the Numbers

Iglesia Evangelica

First formal service: 12/12/99
Members: 181
Average Sunday attendance: 100
Age, high school age or younger: 50 percent
Average Sunday school attendance: 40
People who are Hispanic: 99 percent
Full-time pastors: 2
Part-time secretary: 1

Sunnyside

Founded: 1932
Members: 602
Average Sunday attendance: 290
Age, high school or younger: 33 percent
People who claim Dutch heritage: 70 percent
Full-time pastors: 2
Part-time staff (worship staff, cleaning, groundskeeper, office): 5
Original building built in 1963
Relocation to new property process began in 2004
www.sunnysidecrc.org

Sample of Billingual Service

Note: For some of the songs both English and Spanish texts were offered and people could choose which language to sing. For others, people were encouraged to sing both languages on alternate stanzas.

Prelude

Song: “These Are the Days Of Elijah” / “Dias de Elias” Robin Mark

God’s Greeting

Apostles’ Creed
Creo en Dios Padre Todopoderoso,
Creador del cielo y de la tierra,
Creo en Jesucristo, su único Hijo, nuestro Señor;
que fue concebido del Espíritu Santo,
nació de María virgen;
padeció bajo Poncio Pilato,
fue crucificado, muerto y sepultado;
descendió a los infiernos,
al tercer día resucitó de entre los muertos;
subió al cielo y está sentado a la diestra de Dios Padre;
de allí vendrá a juzgar a los vivos y a los muertos.
Creo en el Espíritu Santo;
la santa iglesia católica,
la communión de los santos;
el perdón de los pecados;
la resurrección del cuerpo
y la vida enterna. Amén.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the universal church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Sing: “Holy, Holy, Holy” / “Santo, Santo, Santo” SNC 259, WR 739

Prayer

Children’s Message

Message: “A Message for Exiles”

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:1-14
1. Keep _____________ your life. (vv. 4-6)
Continuen ___________ en perseverancia.

2. Seek your ________________ well-being. (v. 7)
Reclamen el bienestar de sus _________________.

3. Don’t listen to __________________ prophets. (vv. 8-9)
No escuchen a _______________ profetas.

4. Focus on our Lord’s _________________. (vv. 10-14)
Enfoquense en las _______________ de nuestro Senor.

Song: “Jesus Is My Lord” / “Cristo es mi Señor” Marcos Witt

Offering: Adalente

Song: “Because He Lives” / “Por que el vive” (st. 1) CH 358, WR 447

Benediction

Song: “Because He Lives” / “Por que el vive” (st. 3)

Postlude