Diversity at Christmas

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As we enter Advent, it is good to be reminded of the diversity of God’s church. The genealogy of Jesus listed in Matthew 1 reminds us that Jesus’ human lineage is itself diverse. His family tree included Canaanites (Tamar and Rahab), Moabites (Ruth), Hittites (Bathsheba), and more. Today diversity continues to be a defining feature of the church that serves God incarnate, born from that lineage. 

This month, Christmas will be celebrated in a myriad of ways in countries all over the world. And many of those traditions will find their ways into Christian Reformed congregations thanks to the growing diversity of our denomination. Currently, almost a third (32%) of all CRC congregations identify as Hispanic, African American, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, Navajo, Zuni, or multiethnic. 

Many of these ethnic minority congregations are church plants supported by established congregations, local classes, and Resonate Global Mission. Others have been around for a long time. Whether they are newly formed or have been around for generations, all of these diverse congregations add beauty and depth to our CRCNA family. They offer new ways to worship and relate to God and demonstrate unique ways to serve their communities and share the gospel. 

Here are glimpses into the congregational life of a few of these churches. 

Artesia City Church, Artesia, Calif.

Artesia City Church is an Indian and Pakistani congregation in Southern California. It started in 2008 and is currently pastored by Rev. Dr. Eric Sarwar. This worshiping community of about 25 people describes itself as “a congregational missional movement of worship community to Yesu Masih (Jesus Christ) that embraces the covenantal responsibility of Christian life and identity, rooted in the Bible, expressed in cultural traditions, and renewed and applied in the context of the New Covenant.” At its annual outreach picnic on the Pacific Ocean, members played praise songs on guitar and harmonium.

Iglesia Todas Las Naciones, Hudsonville, Mich.

Iglesia Todas Las Naciones (Church of All Nations) is a church plant that meets in Hudsonville, Mich., and is led by Rev. Pablo Sang-Lee. Every week, Spanish-speaking individuals gather from across West Michigan, some driving 30-40 minutes to worship with other Spanish speakers. In July 2021, the congregation celebrated its first anniversary.

Manhattan Vertical Church, New York, N.Y.

Manhattan Vertical Church is a Korean congregation that describes itself as a “church that prioritizes restoration of relationship with God (vertical) in life.” They worship and strive for God’s will and revival in Manhattan, N.Y., and are led by Rev. Kwon Do Lee (pictured leading worship). 

Red Valley CRC, Red Valley, Ariz.

Red Valley CRC is a Navajo- and English-speaking congregation that seeks “to be a loving, friendly community that worships God and serves others.” About 40 people regularly attend services led by Pastor Caleb Dickson, who was ordained as a commissioned pastor in 2018. This photo was taken in the sanctuary during Pastor Dickson’s ordination service.

Zion Chinese CRC, Abbotsford, B.C.

Zion Chinese CRC recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. This worshiping community of about 100 people is led by Rev. Joseph Yu-Jyh Chen (pictured above at a recent baptism). The congregation was originally founded to reach a growing number of Vietnamese and Laotianrefugees in the Abbotsford area. The congregation has since welcomed and become a home for new immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and China. Originally services were offered in Cantonese and translated into Vietnamese. Today, the church incorporates English, Mandarin, and Cantonese into its services.

“Since the pandemic started, we have hosted various Bible study groups and community building events via Zoom,” said Lydia Liu, ministry coordinator for Zion Chinese CRC. “Our online Bible study groups have seen unprecedented participation with members desiring to pursue the Word of God. The online platform has served these Bible Study groups very well as people could conveniently participate from anywhere, including from China.”

About the Author

Kristen deRoo VanderBerg was part of the World Renew Communications team from 1999-2016. She now serves as director of Communications & Marketing for the Christian Reformed Church.

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