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Making multicultural music

Many voices, languages, approaches to honoring one God together

August 7, 2013

LOUISVILLE

“Send us Lord, that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world, tu amor almundo.” 

The words, coming midway through the prayer after communion at the National Multicultural Church Conference’s Aug. 3 worship service had just been spoken by the Revs. Laurel Underwood and Nancy Benson-Nicol when the oddest thing happened: the door to the nearby service bay slowly and silently opened without human intervention.

It underscored the underlying message of this conference under the Big Tent: mysterious and wonderful things happen when people open their minds and hearts to the multiple facets and powers of God. 

Egyptian musician Monir Michael opened with an original composition built on the phrase “This is the day that the Lord has made,” while his sermon prelude celebrated salvation. The music and lyrics, sung in Monir’s native Arabic, were perhaps some attendees’ first experience with this language. 

Throughout the service, other hymns ― often accompanied by Underwood at the piano ― and prayers included verses in Spanish. 

“Dame la mano!” (“Give me your hand!”) was the theme of, and underscore for, the passing of the peace. 

All eyes saw the language of painting. 

As Benson-Nicol shared preaching duties with Underwood on the topic “What Do You Hear? What Do You See? Living Together in Harmony?” she stood at an easel, turning the black canvas into praying churchgoers. 

At worship’s conclusion, the worship segued into a panel discussion, “Dancing into a New Song: Models of Multicultural Worship,” focusing on how some congregations have successfully opened their doors to a multicultural experience and existence. 

Big Tent, Aug. 1-3, was a celebration of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission and ministry organized around the theme “Putting God’s First Things First.” It was composed of 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center here.

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