Multicultural Worship at All Souls Unitarian
The seventh episode of the "A Religion for Our Time" video series illustrates how worship at All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, DC, is designed to serve a diverse community. Worship planners at All Souls ask themselves every single week, "How will we reflect in worship the experience and traditions of many different cultures?” Honoring the multiculturalism of the congregation and the neighborhood is an intentional process at the heart of All Souls. And it's a process that can be used in any Unitarian Universalist congregation.
Rev. Peter Morales: As more and more UU congregations open their doors and hearts to multicultural ministry, one of the challenges is how to honor that diversity in worship. How does worship become multicultural? How does this worship help build the beloved community? These are questions that the ministers and members, that all souls in Washington, DC, have been pondering for years.
Rev. Robert Hardies: I think that worship on Sunday morning is really a rehearsal of that beloved community. It needs to be the place where we tell the story of what beloved community is. It needs to be the place where we can actually witnessed a glimpse of what the beloved community is.
Lenard Starks: It's something that we do intentionally. We try to practice putting what multicultural elements in our worship services and in our activities.
Gregory Ford: We live in a neighborhood that is largely Latino and Spanish-speaking. This neighborhood is a clash and a clamor and a symphonatic cacophony of mixtures of cultures.
Rev. Robert Hardies: One of the things that we've learned is that people oftentimes will make a judgment within their first 15 minutes of being in a church on Sunday morning people whether or not they belong. A big part of finding out whether or not you belong is if you look around and you see people who feel like you, who look like you. That means that every Sunday morning, the leadership and worship really needs to reflect the diversity of our church community. We're really intentional about that. One of the ways we really bring that in is through our worship associate program.
Gregory Ford: I'm the worship associate coordinator at All Souls Church. My biggest struggle is fulfilling the mandate that we have from the clerical staff to make sure the pulpit reflects a multiracial and multicultural aspect of all kinds.
Rev. Robert Hardies: Our planning for this kind of worship is very intentional. Every Sunday, we ask ourselves, how o are we in our worship reflecting the experience and the cultural expression of many different cultures?
Narrator: Sometimes it's with drama and the church's community theatre group, the KUUMBA Players.
Gregory Ford: I take those readings and do voicings of those readings. The Pentecostal service is done in multiple languages. We read that particular verse. The framework was done in English and then within that, we had six different languages—French, Spanish, Creole last year, Croatian.
Narrator: Often, the honoring of multiculturalism comes through music.
Lenard Starks: Our emphasis is not so much on African-American music, but music that heals, that promotes social justice and that is encouraging. We use music from different cultures to try to effect that.
Narrator: Since multiculturalism is fast becoming America's future, it's also part of being a religion for our time. True, there aren't many UU congregations that look like All Souls DC now, but any congregation can intentionally honor multiculturalism in word and song and spirit, just as All Souls does.
Lenard Starks: It's the spirit of [UNINTELLIGIBLE PHRASE]. Tonight, the Jubilee singers sang a song with Vietnamese in it.
Rev. Robert Hardies: You really see our congregation is seeking to model, to rehearse what Dr. King called "the beloved community." A diverse, spirit-growing, justice-seeking community that is true to the dream of All Souls.
For more information visit the All Souls Church, Unitarian website.