Delaware churches — one white, one black — find new life by merging
WILMINGTON, Del. — In its heyday, the Cedars Church of…
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The hymns were familiar, even if all the words were not.
At an areawide assembly hosted by the Northland Church of Christ, Ghanaian immigrants full of joy sang “Yɛn Nyame Te Ase” — “Our God, He Is Alive” — in their native dialect of Twi.
Spanish speakers originally from Latin American nations such as Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico praised God with refrains such as “En la Cruz” (“At the Cross”) and “Glorificaremos al Señor” (“We Will Glorify”).
“This is a little bit of heaven right here.”
“This is a little bit of heaven right here,” Northland member Lynn Rosenbaum said before leading “We Saw Thee Not” and “The Old Rugged Cross” in English.
On this recent Sunday night, about 200 members of Churches of Christ came together in Ohio’s capital city to sing, pray, commune and eat a fellowship meal.
The different languages reflected the multicultural nature of Northland — a 77-year-old church on the north side of this city of nearly 900,000 souls.
“This has always been a very mixed church,” said Sandy Stover, 50, who has worshiped with the congregation all her life. “I don’t remember a time when we didn’t have white and black members.”
Stover remembers when ladies wore gloves, hats and fancy dresses to services. Farmland surrounded the building back then.
These days, Sunday attire is much more casual and the setting much more urban.
Low-income apartments flank the church on both sides. As crime became a bigger concern, many members moved to more affluent areas, although some — like Stover — still drive to Northland for worship.
While the community’s new dynamics challenged the church, the congregation eventually embraced the idea that “we’re here for a reason,” Stover said.
Now, the church has an active benevolence ministry and a food pantry that serves the poor, said Jeff McVicker, one of the three elders. In the summer, the congregation organizes a three-day-a-week camp featuring activities and meals for children.
Christians who share a common faith but speak three different languages worship at this Ohio church.
And on the Lord’s Day — in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in all of Ohio — three groups of Christians who share a common faith but speak different languages worship at Northland.
An English-speaking group of about 130 meets in the main auditorium at 10:30 a.m., while at the same time, about 90 Ghanaians assemble in an annex building. At 3 p.m., about 30 Spanish-speaking Christians convene in the auditorium.
In all, that’s about 250 souls who gather to praise God each Sunday.
The Northland church welcomed the Ghanaian and Latino Christians in the past few decades.
Both groups believe they can share Jesus with more people if they worship in their own language.
An estimated 10,000 people from Ghana live in Columbus. Jobs draw some to the Midwestern city. Others come to attend Ohio State University.
“Some people come, and English is a problem,” said Yakubu Haruna, 58, who grew up Muslim before converting to Christianity in his West African homeland 40 years ago. “So we decided if we worship in our own language, it would help those people to continue to serve the Lord and continue to give their maximum to the Lord. That is one reason why we are there.”
However, most of the Ghanaian children speak English, so the native-born and immigrant youngsters attend Sunday school together at 9:30 a.m.
“Those kids come in knowing the Bible as well as I do,” said Stover, who teaches second- through fourth-graders. “They are amazing.”
Someday, as the immigrant children grow up, the language barriers may disappear.
For now, Northland leaders take advantage of special opportunities to bring the three groups together, such as at the areawide service.
Besides Northland, a half-dozen Columbus-area congregations were represented: the Alum Creek Church of Christ, the Dublin-Powell Church of Christ, the Genessee Avenue Church of Christ, the Lancaster Church of Christ, the Reynoldsburg Church of Christ and the Spring Road Church of Christ.
“It’s good to see everybody come together,” Elmer Renderos, an El Salvador native who leads Northland’s Hispanic group, said of the joint assembly. “The culture is very apart, so this is a special event.”
Jenny Coate, a longtime Northland member, agreed: “It’s very encouraging, uplifting. It’s nice … because we see each other, but we really don’t sit together much because of the different times and different languages.”
Before offering a prayer for the Lord’s Supper, Northland minister Caleb Dillinger opened his Bible to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,” Dillinger read aloud, quoting the apostle’s words in Ephesians 2:19-20 (English Standard Version).
Hatred and violence often afflict modern-day America, Dillinger told the crowd.
“We have so many barriers that can stand in the way in our society,” the minister said. “But because of Jesus, that doesn’t stop us.
“Jesus doesn’t have that,” he stressed. “Jesus has peace. And we as a church, we have peace.”
“Jesus has peace. And we as a church, we have peace.”
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