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Becoming Pentecost People 

Andy Robertson explains how a new resource aims to help churches to embrace the different cultures within them, and to experience multicultural worship and prayer

 

Pentecost People2


I stood at the back of the room, one of only three white people in a group of 100 – the rest were all Sri Lankan women. The worship was in full flow – committed singing, passionate if not perfect playing, and adoration for God like I’ve never seen before. Every song was in Tamil. I loved being there, but couldn’t quite connect. Then, a song in English – no less commitment in the room, but I was now a part of this. It was all truly wonderful.
 
This was 2012, in a Sri Lankan fellowship in Nicosia, Cyprus. As a worship leader in a West London church that is ethnically and culturally diverse, I was only too aware of the challenge of inclusivity in worship, prayer and indeed church life as a whole.

To be a church that reflected the community we served, but also took corporate worship beyond the narrow expression it had become was a passion and a mission of our pastor, and had become one for me too. I realised at that moment, standing with those Sri Lankan women, what it must be like to be excluded in worship because of a cultural or ethnic difference.

It may seem surprising, but American, Australian and British worship music isn’t always relevant to your average second generation British Indian from Southall who has an affinity with tablas, sitar and Bhangra fusion. There is a depth of creativity and beauty from a variety of cultures around the world that we never plumb – which is why Pentecost People was born.
 
In late 2015, a few people with a vested interest in ‘multi-cultural worship’ met at a college in Oxford to begin a process that would lead to the development of a resource for UK Baptists that would allow them to discover, explore and embrace diverse, culturally conscious, and creative worship. The group represented churches, academic institutions and the Baptist family, and brought together a fascinating and rich collection of experience and expertise.

We soon discovered that there are a handful of churches around the country who are exploring worship that intentionally express the cultures and ethnicities represented in the congregation and community. We heard of experiences of exclusion based on skin colour, we talked of how we had been challenged by worship in other countries, and the challenges of promoting a diverse approach to worship in mono-cultural communities.
 
We taught each other some of the songs and expressions we had learnt and were using in our home churches – making friendship crosses from beads, performing prostration exercises that are borne from Hindu culture and listening to different forms of music used in global worship. It was an exciting time. We felt that God was priming us to deliver a significant challenge to the church. It was at this point that the name of the project – Pentecost People – was born.

 

 
Pentecost People – The global church expressed locally through the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

 
The Pentecost People resource will be launched by the Baptist Union at the 2017 Assembly. This new resource aims to help churches to embrace the different cultures within them, to learn hospitality in a new way and to experience multicultural worship and prayer. It is made up of four video-based study sessions filmed in British Baptist churches, and additional resources to help small groups and churches to explore these areas.

Pentecost People

To get you thinking about this incredible and exciting subject, here’s a way for you to engage church in an expression of worship drawn from the Hindu Culture.

This is a prostration exercise. It recognises the importance of posture and physicality in our worship -  two aspects which are often discarded in western forms of corporate worship.


Time: 5-10 minutes

You will need:

  • Space for people to lie in a prostrate position (if there are physical challenges for people in achieving this, the exercise in entirely adaptable)

  • A reader

  • Ideally you will also have access to a drone sound produced by an Indian instrument called the Tampura. You can download the iTampura app onto your smart phone. The drone is continuous throughout the exercise, and represents the continued presence of God.


The exercise begins with a reading of scripture, and an explanation of the drone sound.


Romans 12


Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.

 
‘Extend the full length of your body onto the floor….

Do not rush - take time through the stages, allow time for meditation and reflection.’
 
 
Leader

“I offer you my…”

  • FOREHEAD…representing my thoughts and meditations; let the focus of these things be you Lord.

  • EYES…the windows of my soul; let them be filled with your light as they look put into the world.

  • TONGUE and LIPS...expressing worship in words and tune; calling on you through your names…let my lips always express thanks and reverence

  • CHEST…the seat of life; let my life be rooted in God -  He is the source from which I live/

  • HANDS…as I spread my palms flat onto the floor…I am expressing the offering of my actions, my deeds, my work to you God, for your pleasure and for your use.

  • KNEES…as I rise up onto my knees…I express my reverence to you and my dependence on you. I ask YOU, my rich King, to be there to meet all of my needs.

  • FEET… as I rise and stand, I express my pilgrimage, I acknowledge that I am on a journey with You and for You, and I reflect that You are the goal and the destination…

 
Amen.
 
 
For prayer

 
  • Pray for an increased understanding and participation across the Baptist family of worship that is inclusive, creative and affirming of all cultures and ethnicities

  • Pray for the launch of ‘Pentecost People’ – pray that it will be an effective and widely utilized tool within the Baptist family

  • Pray that as we diversify our approached to worship and prayer, we would see a new richness in our worship, we would see our communities impacted and experience growth in the Kingdom of God 

  • Pentecost People – The resource – will be launched at the Baptist Assembly in May.

 
 

Andy Robertson is the Worship Facilitator at Greenford Baptist Church in West London

 

This article appears in the Summer 2017 edition of Baptists Together magazine.

Baptist Times, 13/05/2017
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