Grace Chapel's Multicultural Journey
A story of how God has been moving Grace in the area of multicultural interactions. (Written by Mohit Abraham)
Changes in the Cultural Landscape of New England
God is doing something today in New England that is consistent with what He has done throughout Redemption History. Since the first century, God has used the scattering of people from their native homelands, as a result of a wide variety of reasons – persecution, war, economics, to name a few - to spread the Gospel to the world. Although the United States has been a nation of immigrants from its beginning, the vast majority of those immigrants, up until this last century, were people of European descent. The last several decades, however, have seen a dramatic increase in the number of immigrants from all corners of the globe. God is literally bringing the nations to our doorsteps.
A Brief History
The seeds of Grace Chapel’s multicultural journey can be traced back to the very beginning when in October 1948 a group of five Lexington families met to pray and discuss the need for an evangelical witness in the town. They shared a common burden to reach their neighbors with the Good News of Jesus Christ. But there was also a conscious choice by the founding couples to make Grace Chapel an interdenominational church, which would lay the foundation in providing a welcoming environment for people from a wide variety of faith journeys to find a safe place to explore, discover and mature in their relationship with Christ.
In 1995, in response to a growing recognition of the increasing number of people coming to Grace Chapel from a variety of cultural backgrounds, a series of monthly luncheons began to be held, that became known as the Grace International Fellowship. For the next three years these luncheons created a safe environment for new people from minority ethnic cultures to find a point of connection at Grace Chapel, whether they were new or had been coming for awhile.
The luncheons and other additional initiatives highlighted for those coming to Grace Chapel that this was a church that was seeking to understand how to respond to the increasingly multicultural population surrounding Grace Chapel. Classes for English as a Second Language were begun and the number of students has increased with each passing year. Roberto and Nora Laver opened up their home in Waltham to reach out to international students in the area. 70 to 80 students each month, many of them non-Christians, gather to be welcomed, cared for and nurtured by this passionate International Student Ministry Team.
In an effort to be even more intentional in its response to the increasing multicultural population, Grace Chapel has held a Cultural Awareness Weekend each fall for the past four years. In preparation for the first event a limited survey of the congregation revealed that over 50 different cultural heritages were represented at Grace Chapel. Many of these, of course, were representational of the majority culture, which are of European descent, but people representing cultures from all the major continents of the world were also identified – African American, Cambodian, Cameroon, Colombian, Chinese, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haitian, Indian, Korean, Native American, Sri Lankan, South African, and many, many more. Grace Chapel has truly become a multiracial church, in which no one racial group accounts for over 80 percent of the membership.
Where We Are Now
Following the 2010 Cultural Awareness Weekend, an invitation was extended to about 50 Grace Chapel people who are from a minority ethnic culture, are interracial couples, or those knowledgeable/ experienced in multi-ethnic/cultural issues to participate in a focus group process. From the results of that process, the elders enthusiastically approved moving forward with a multicultural church initiative. One of the key parts of that proposal was to create a Multicultural Leadership/Learning Team (MLLT) that would participate in senior leadership discussions to keep the commitment to this initiative fresh and forward looking, impacting the culture of Grace Chapel at all levels.
In early 2006, the MLLT spent time further defining its role and in response to those discussions created a mission statement that would reflect the key objectives that were identified. The team is looking forward to fulfilling its calling. God has already allowed us to enjoy so many opportunities to “taste” a little bit of heaven.
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9)
The Holy Spirit has accomplished a great work in drawing so many people from so many cultures here, but Grace Chapel must now do its part to see God’s kingdom realized here, “on earth as it is in heaven.”