Independence Celebrations Provide Outreach Tool

Post a Comment » Written on March 2nd, 2006     
Filed under: News
NEW YORK, NY (March 2, 2006) – Bethesda Covenant Church recently took the unusual step during a worship service to celebrate another country’s independence.

The church took about 15 minutes to rejoice in the 58th anniversary of the Independence Day of Sri Lanka because one of its attendees at the multi-ethnic congregation, Srimali De Mel, is from that country, says Amy Rohler, one of the church’s co-pastors.

“Celebrating the national and independence days of its members’ home countries is one of the newest ways that Bethesda Covenant Church is trying to live out its value of being international,” says Rohler.

The church is located only blocks from the United Nations and reflects the ethnic neighborhood, with attendees from such varied places as Nigeria, Liberia, El Salvador, Japan, India, China, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Suriname, and the United States.

The church, with attendance of about 25, had more than 15 Sri Lankan visitors to the service on February 5, including several Buddhists, Rohler says. Some stayed to make Valentines for the senior girls unit of Children’s Home of Cromwell. Among the Sri Lankan guests was Shanta D. Premawardhana, the associate general secretary for interfaith relations at the National Council of Churches and director of its Interfaith Relations Commission.

The service included a time of greeting, prayers, and a blessing for the nation and its people, of whom only about eight percent are Christians, Rohler says. The prayers are especially needed during a time of reconstruction following the 2004 tsunami and peace talks between warring factions in the country, she adds. A feast of native Sri Lankan food and treats was served after worship.

The celebrations “allow the church members to pray for the Christian values of compassion, justice, peace, and the spread of the gospel in particular places,” says Rohler. “They become more intimately aware of and involved with their fellow members’ traditions.

“Most importantly, the celebrations have provoked the deep sense that Christianity is truly a global family, whose communal identity is found primarily in Christ – not ethnicity, nation of origin, or family,” Rohler adds.

The church will celebrate the independence days of Sweden in June and Liberia in July.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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