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Canadian Churches Embark on Multicultural Learning Journey

At a recent retreat, members of a cohort exploring congregational multiculturalism discuss ideas shared by presenters

“I loved the Christian Reformed church we were attending,” said Peter Carrión, “but I missed worshiping in Spanish.”

This simple story is how La Roca Spanish ministry was started. Carrión started gathering with his family in his home and leading a service. Word started to spread, and more families arrived. Finally, there was no more space in Carrión’s home, so La Roca partnered with Immanuel CRC in Brampton, Ont.

Carrión, originally from Ecuador, noted that the Spanish-speaking communities in Canada are a rich tapestry of people from many different countries. This multiculturalism inspired La Roca to think about creating spaces where diverse communities can come together under the umbrella of one church.

Carrión is participating in a Christian Reformed Church 10-month collaborative exploration of what it truly means to be a healthy multicultural church. This learning cohort, supported by a Thriving Practices grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., brings together leaders from churches across Canada whose congregations increasingly include multiple ethnicities and cultures to deepen their understanding of multicultural wisdom, exchange insights from diverse experiments, and cultivate innovative practices that foster multicultural hospitality and community.

Sid Hielema, one of the project's leaders, expressed his passion for seeing churches as dynamic learning communities. He said that Christian Reformed congregations are becoming “increasingly multicultural” and “welcoming diversity in both origins and languages spoken.”

Pablo Kim Sun, the CRCNA’s senior leader for anti-racism and intercultural conciliation, noted an ongoing demographic shift in Canada that means that “by 2044, one out of two Canadians will be either Indigenous, Black, or a person of color.” This reality has prompted many churches to ask how they can faithfully follow Christ and love their neighbors in a culturally diverse community.

The 13 congregations participating in this learning cohort have different backgrounds and origins but face common challenges in adapting to changing neighborhoods. By sharing experiences and learning from one another, they hope to navigate the complexities of multiculturalism and develop best practices for all multicultural congregations even while recognizing that each congregation’s journey is unique.

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