New Westminster Christian Reformed Church in Burnaby, B.C., rings in the new year with three distinct celebrations. The church and its members celebrate on January 1 of the western calendar, the Lunar New Year in February, and the Persian New Year (Nowruz) in March. These celebrations are born from the congregation’s many multicultural ministries and initiatives.
Hyung-Jun Kim, pastor of discipleship and multicultural ministry, said, “Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually the time for our Canadian members to teach students and immigrant families about the meaning of different traditions related to those holidays. These two other New Year’s Day traditions are times for our non-Canadian members to be a host, to be able to share their culture and food and what is special to them.”
The New Year service on January 1 usually includes a brunch, and there is a focus on starting the year with meditations and prayer. The Lunar New year is celebrated by many of the different Asian communities represented at New Westminster CRC. “The Lunar New Year is one of the most celebrated and anticipated holidays in those countries,” Kim said.
For the Lunar New Year, parishioners from several cultures wear traditional clothing and decorate the church with traditional decorations. This event is a highlight for many of the congregation's international students who are away from home and their families.
2018 was the first time New Westminster CRC hosted the Persian New Year celebration. Hosts served Persian dishes, and a church member explained to the attendees the significance of the celebration and festival. Nowruz falls on the day of spring equinox, so growing wheatgrass is a traditional table decoration. Kim said it is a time during which people are expected make visits to the homes of family, friends, and neighbors. Visitors are welcomed and offered pastries, cookies, dried fruits, and other rich foods. The church hosts displayed these items as symbols of such hospitality.
Other multicultural events held at New Westminster CRC throughout the year include Taste of the World, a celebration of food from the different cultures represented in the congregation, and monthly multicultural worship nights. The first Thursday of every month, members of different ethnic groups share their traditional songs and culture in the context of worship.
“In a multicultural church, everyone needs to learn to be the host and the guest,” Kim said. “It is not healthy to be a host all the time [or] to be a guest always. [Changing roles] is a great opportunity to learn the posture of humility.”