Several Cultures, One Church in Minnesota

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Most churches of 320 worshipers do not hold four services each Sunday, but the International Ministries of Worthington (Minn.) Christian Reformed Church does.

The congregation reflects the increasingly multicultural nature of the city. Longtime U.S. citizens worship alongside recent immigrants from Sudan, Ethiopia, Liberia, and Laos.

Linguistic differences often determine which worship service people participate in, though as congregants grow more comfortable with the English language, or as their children gain confidence in English, more join the Sunday-morning service at 9:30, led by Rev. LeRoy Christoffels.

Adam Nhotsavang leads a group of Laotian worshipers who belong to Worthington (Minn.) CRC.

English speakers from Liberia worship at this time, led by Rev. Andrew Woja Henry, while a smaller group of Laotian worshipers meet separately under the leadership of Adam Nhotsavang.

Anyuak worshipers, who come primarily from Sudan and Ethiopia, meet at midday, and the Oromo group, who also come from Ethiopia, meet mid-afternoon.

However, the church purposely schedules overlap and coffee time between the worship services. They celebrate baptisms and other special occasions during the main Sunday-morning service, providing translation so everyone can understand. A recent prayer service held for crops and industry drew people from each group.

There are challenges, of course. “The children are growing up in American tradition and the English language. They lean towards Western culture, but the parents stay in [their] traditional language,” said Henry.

That raises questions about when to transition to English-speaking services and how to enfold immigrant children and teens in a meaningful way while they navigate a new culture. And the sheer logistics of planning and holding multiple worship services within the same building mean that everyone needs to remain flexible and open to sharing their space.

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