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Massachusetts Church Hosts Multilingual Worship Fest

Massachusetts Church Hosts Multilingual Worship Fest
(From left, at the podium) Pamela Araujo Garcia, Joel Vande Werken, and Kelly Penning lead in worship at the Santo, Santo, Santo Festival.

The church of God is big and beautiful: so asserts the planning team behind Fairlawn Christian Reformed Church’s “Santo, Santo, Santo Festival,” hosted on March 8 in Whitinsville, Mass. Kelly Penning, member, said the event “reminded all of us that God is a big God, who loves to see the world's unity reflected in worship.”

The festival made use of “Santo, Santo, Santo/Holy, Holy, Holy,” a new bilingual hymnal released by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship last summer. The institute, part of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., is offering free hymnals to churches hosting festivals and asking for congregational feedback. “Our hope is to equip the congregations to lead these festivals out of their community,” said Rebecca Snipe, co-editor of the hymnal. Snipe said the hymnal can provide shared songs to communities with both Spanish and English as first languages.

The number of Spanish and Portuguese speakers has grown in the past year at Fairlawn CRC, reflective of changes in Whitinsville’s population. Pastor Joel Vande Werken hoped the festival would welcome the church’s own multilingual members as well as the surrounding community, and “remind (us) as a congregation about the wideness and diversity of God's people.”

Planning team member Penning said, “I am a Spanish teacher, and I love languages and worshipping in different languages. I was eager to be involved in planning our Santo, Santo, Santo event.”

Fairlawn has incorporated some multilingual songs into their services, but a multilingual event of this size was new ground. The planning team met several times to set a vision before turning to logistics. They included various instruments and multiple generations in leading hymns, scripture, and responsive readings in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. They advertised in local newspapers and distributed postcards to churches, the local Christian school, and personal contacts.

Fifty to 60 people gathered for the festival. The planning team had hoped for larger attendance from the community, but Penning said the event was still valuable. “I think that the members of our congregation that speak other languages felt valued and appreciated through this event.” As for the English-speaking church members, Vande Werken said the event stretched the church to consider “what it means to be part of the wider church who worship God and celebrate Christ's salvation in words and expressions that might be a bit different than ours.”

Fairlawn might repeat the “Santo, Santo, Santo” festival next year. Snipe said 22 other worshiping communities have applied to host a festival in 2020.

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