I love that there is a month set aside to embrace my culture, one where I feel appreciated and valued. In September, there are many celebrations that take place in communities, at schools and even churches for Hispanic Heritage Month. 

But now that we are a few months past that designated time, I always ask myself why our culture can’t be celebrated year-round. Why is my culture put on the back burner every other month of the year? 

There are so many beautiful ways to serve and welcome the Hispanic community during all the other months as well. 

As someone living in a predominantly Latinx community, I am constantly immersed in my culture. I see the Mexican flag flying over many small businesses. Buildings with art depicting familiar symbols in our culture are everywhere, including calveras de azucar, which are the sugar skulls commonly seen with Dia de los Muertos. 

I see many signs in both English and Spanish. I walk into most places and feel seen, heard and appreciated. 

However, there was a community space I once went into and didn’t feel welcomed. It should have been the place where I was embraced and felt safe in my identity.

I should have felt valued and that people of my culture were welcomed there. This place was a local congregation claiming to be diverse, yet lacking any visible signs backing that up. The experience/ My visit left me feeling isolated rather than like I belonged. 

Congregations aiming to be accepting of people of different backgrounds, cultures, races and ethnicities have often lacked in creating a diverse space, one where all are welcomed with open arms. As a social work student working with congregations, I often reflect on what churches can do to create such a multicultural and inclusive environment. 

The church should be a place that most resembles God’s kingdom. I believe the kingdom includes all of God’s worshipping and fellowshipping alongside those with cultural differences. It is a place where cultures are embraced, celebrated, accommodated and loved. 

A multicultural congregation aims to build bridges. There are a few steps that would help create such a multicultural congregation. 

The first is beginning with self-examination, becoming aware of our beliefs and cultural identity. This means being aware of ourselves in different spaces. Cultural awareness begins by looking inward. 

We must ask ourselves, “Do I have personal biases or stereotypes for others?” The answer is most likely yes since implicit biases are in all of us. 

Congregational leadership should all go through the process of becoming self-aware to better serve congregants from different cultures. 

We must also be knowledgeable and willing to learn about different cultures. If there are church members who speak different languages, it is important to have printed materials available in their heart language. 

Churches should learn about the traditions and norms and celebrate the different cultural holidays of those within their congregations. For example, I attended an event hosted by a church highlighting Christmas celebrations across the world. 

The sanctuary was turned into a world marketplace where different booths represented different nations. The main stage held various performances, ranging from Native American dancing to singing Los Santos Reyes, a Mexican posada.

There are always opportunities for congregations to learn about different cultures and identify ways to celebrate them. As believers, we are reminded of this in the book of Acts. 

The early church was relational. Members were a part of each other’s lives in different ways. They prayed for and taught one another. They worshipped and broke bread together. 

We know we are disciples of Jesus by truly loving one another, even if we are from different cultures. It all comes down to approaching ministry from a place of cultural humility. 

Cultural humility, rather than cultural competency, is a lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique where the individual not only learns about another’s culture but starts with an examination of their own beliefs and cultural identities. 

A multicultural congregation is not one that just has members from different backgrounds, checking all the “diversity” boxes. It is, instead, one that is intentional in getting to know the life experiences of others. 

It is a congregation willing to have difficult conversations about what racism looks like and how to combat it in the church. It is one that is willing to admit and remain aware of its own history of oppressive practices. 

A multicultural congregation is one that reflects God’s kingdom, one where people of different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and languages are loved, embraced, celebrated and accompanied. 

What a gentle yet powerful force that could be. 

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