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Calvary Worship Centre New Westminster, B.C.
Neighbourhood diversity means not only a variety of cultures, but also a range in professional and economic status.

Sam Owusu has always believed a church should reflect the community in which it is planted.

Calvary Worship Centre, the 15-year-old church where he is senior pastor, has long sought to participate in and mirror the multicultural nature of Canada as a whole and the area of New Westminster, B.C., in particular.

Pastor Sam Owusu

Close to 600 people, including 120 children, attend Calvary. They come from about 65 nations. Racially, about 45 percent of the congregation is black, 45 percent white, and the rest are Asian and Hispanic.

"The Bible is embracing the nations from Genesis through Revelation," points out Owusu.

The motto that moves them

"We exist to communicate Christ to all nations in our immediate neighbourhood and beyond, and to equip them for their ministry in the church and the world" is Calvary's statement of purpose.

The "equip" part means members are expected to be involved in ministry in the church and in the community. "Christians are not called to be served but to serve," the website explains.

Involvement comes with commitment. For example, potential Sunday school teachers are interviewed and then required to take a teacher training course provided by the church.

Seeking to mirror neighbourhood diversity

The intercultural population of the church is reflected in its staff, volunteers and leadership: Owusu is from Ghana, associate pastor Joel Shunmugan is from Singapore, and children and youth minister Michelle Saldeba-Alexander is from Jamaica.

Having so many cultures together gives people an opportunity to learn from each other, Shunmugan says. For example, some cultures place more emphasis on showing respect to their elders. In Singapore "we do not call anyone older than us by name—we call them auntie and uncle. The younger generation is slowly picking it up."

Diversity shows up in Sunday services every week. Music might have a Brazilian or African rhythm.

Even the children get involved, both through a dance ministry that incorporates African, folk and interpretive dance as well as through drama presentations, says Saldeba-Alexander.

The breadth and depth of an outreach mindset

Every weekend teams of volunteers walk area streets handing out tracts and inviting people to church. Ministry staff and church members also distributed the Why book one time knocking on doors, presenting the book and offering to pray for the household.

Reactions are mixed, Owusu admits. While some gratefully accept the gift, others wonder if there are strings attached.

Church members are encouraged to be witnesses to their neighbours, friends and colleagues and to invite them to special Bring a Friend Sundays.

Calvary has recently launched a program called Welcome to the Neighbourhood, working with a real estate company to find out who is moving into the area and providing them with gift packages.

"We're getting lots of non-believers," notes Owusu. "The major group would be people who have come because of friends, and the second group is street people [who come] through the street ministry."

The church is also home to a couple of B.C. Lions. Every year Calvary hosts a B.C. Lions Night with games, music and football demonstration by several team members, followed by testimonies. It's a great opportunity to talk about the "lion of Judah," says Shunmugan.

Collaboration with other local churches

Every Easter several churches in New Westminster join together in one big celebration service and the number of churches participating is growing, says Owusu. "We feel our churches need to come together on one front to reach our neighbourhood."

About 120 children attend Calvary and many get involved through a dance ministry that incorporates African, folk and interpretive dance as well as through drama presentations.

Church leaders have met with the city's mayor to learn how the churches can help meet the needs of the homeless population.

Calvary also participates in Love New West, an annual community outreach when church members offer all sorts of services to businesses and individuals—everything from cleaning restaurant washrooms to providing free haircuts to going door to door with flowers.

Recent challenge

Neighbourhood diversity means not only a variety of cultures, but also a range in professional and economic status. Worshippers include doctors, lawyers and professors alongside lots of more obviously broken people including homeless people, says Shunmugan. Some are long-time committed Christians; others are new to the faith.

"The needs among us are different," he says. Identifying those needs is one of the challenges, followed by "feeding different [spiritual] food to different people. We are working on it."

Editor's note: One of Sam Owusu's upcoming projects is joining David Macfarlane of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada in a series of intercultural symposiums this fall (2007): Vancouver (September 12), Calgary (September 13), Winnipeg (September 14), Montreal (September 19) and Toronto (September 20). These will be morning meetings to dialogue and listen to church leaders of effective intercultural churches to learn how all of us can become more effective for Christ in our communities. Leaders interested in joining these symposiums can contact Judy Pfaff

Debra Fieguth is a freelance writer in Kingston, Ontario.

Originally published in Faith Today, July/August 2007.




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