"Pentecost Gathering" celebrates diversity

November 18, 2013

Click here to listen to Rev. Doug Cunningham's Bible study

Click here to listen to Bishop Trimble's greeting

Click here to listen to Rev. Ruben Mendoza's sermon, with interpretation by Rev. Barb Dinnen

Click here to see photo gallery 2

Click here to see for photo gallery 1

Click here to listen to Rev. Doug Cunningham reflect on ministry in a diverse context

By Lisa Bourne*

More than 100 people from emerging immigrant faith communities and their partner churches along with other interested parties were hosted at a Pentecost Gathering November 16 at Camp Wesley Woods near Indianola.

“We are blessed with the opportunity to engage in relationships with those who are new to our communities and often outside the walls of our existing United Methodist Churches,” said Rev. Brian Milford, Southwest District Superintendent and coordinator for the event.

This was the second Pentecost Gathering held by the Iowa Annual Conference. The first event was last fall, drawing around 50 people from 12 nationalities and varying degrees of relationships, said Rev. Milford, most had gone to the Methodist church in their respective communities to use church space for their worship gathering.

“The goal was to begin to get to know each other,” Rev. Milford said. “It was dynamic, a mix of cultures.”

“We talked to each other, shared stories,” he continued. “Engaged in conversation in why this was important. We just had a great time.”

The Pentecost Gathering this year once again brought people together from numerous cultures and faith traditions from across the state for bible study, partnership conversation, a multi-cultural potluck lunch, an episcopal greeting from Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble and worship.

“We hope we will add to the level of trust in the church and further clarify what a partnership will look like,” said Rev. Milford.

Bible study was conducted by Rev. Douglas Cunningham, pastor of New Day United Methodist Church in the Bronx, NY.

In his address Rev. Cunningham said that speaking in other languages is integral to the work of the Holy Spirit, and that receiving the Holy Spirit is not always a comfortable, gentle breeze.

It’s not good news if you can’t understand it, Rev. Cunningham said.

At the same time, he said it’s not fundamental that we understand each other.

“What’s fundamental is respect,” said Rev. Cunningham.

The Holy Spirit is a powerful wind, he said, which reminds us that there is something more powerful than we are.

He also discussed the idea of leaving one’s comfort zone in reaching out to others.

“I’ve always learned the most when I’ve crossed boundaries,” Rev. Cunningham said.

Several members of the Chuukeese Christian Fellowship attended the Pentecost Gathering for the first time and provided part of the music for the event’s high-energy worship.

The faith community started as a small prayer, said Pastor Ancherson William. The group was happy to come to the event and share their Micronesian music.

“I wanted to see what they’re going to do today,” said Lola Relech, who played keyboard. “I want to learn something and have some experience.”

The gathering got a thumbs-up from two of her band-mates.

“It’s fun,” said Sonny William.

“It’s cool,” D.One Yechem said.

Members of the Filipino-American Association of Iowa attended the Pentecost Gathering.

“I thought it would be good to be a part of this,” said Dona Thompson. “This sort of thing should be something we should be doing more. It’s great to learn more about other nationalities.”

“I wanted to be with people from different cultures,” said Carmelita Heyne. “It’s nice to be here.”

“I wanted to meet some people from different countries,” Daisy Houston said.

The offering taken at the gathering will go to benefit relief in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

“I want to help the people in the Philippines,”Naty Balines said.

Young people were a part of the Pentecost Gathering as well.

Mayte Gomez-Cruz, 15, attended with the group from Trinity Las Americas in Des Moines.

“It’s really cool,” she said. “The different languages, together everyone making an effort.”

Gomez-Cruz sat with Diana Sagastizado, 12, from Osceola.  “You learn,” Sagastizado said, “God is good.”

Sherly Aguilar, 17, attended with Amor Y Paz in Des Moines.

“I wanted to see all these cultures come together,” she said. “I like it. I love the atmosphere, all the energy that’s here.”

“I love how we use all of our natural languages to talk about our similarities and how much we have in common,” said Aguilar.

Jim Supina is an ESL teacher and volunteer for Trinity United Methodist Church in Des Moines. He was very excited about coming to the Pentecost Gathering.

“I really enjoy multi-cultural events,” Supina said. “This is just the kind of thing I really enjoy very much.”

Supina said he was glad for the opportunity to get together with people.

“I think some people are hesitant to enter into other cultures because they’re not sure they’ll be accepted,” said Supina. “I would say just go ahead and enter into it.”

“I’ve never experienced rejection or being set apart or isolated when I’ve done that,” he continued. “I always feel acceptance, and I feel a part of everything even if I don’t understand the language or culture completely. I’ve always gone away with a real feeling of being connected to that culture.” 

Supina further encourages people to reach other cultures.

“I would say to people that haven’t done that, you don’t know what you’re missing,” he said. “You don’t know the experience and the feeling that you can have when you reach out to people, and they reach out to you also.”

“It’s a beautiful experience,” said Supina. “I’m very grateful for it.”

Pastor Ruben Mendoza, associate pastor of Hispanic Ministry for the Broadway United Methodist Church in Council Bluffs, preached during the Pentecost Gathering.

His message focused on the Holy Spirit in your life, and he emphasized the importance of prayer.

“The biggest thing in the Christian life is prayer,” said Rev. Mendoza.

“A church that doesn’t pray is condemned to fail,” he said, and "this is the case for the pastor as well."

Bishop Trimble’s greeting

“I come bringing greetings of celebration that this event is taking place,” said Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble as he greeted the Pentecost Gathering.  “This is a unique and unrepeatable moment in time, so give yourselves a hand for the greatness of this day.”

He spoke about a stole that he would wear for the celebration of Holy Communion.  As he participated in a prayer circle of United Methodist Bishops from around the world he thought about the stole.  “It represents the family of God,” he noted, “which we are representing here today…the diversity of the family of God, the rainbow colors of the family of God.”

“It also has open doors to the church.  The church doors are inside the heart of Christ.  In the heart of Christ all people are welcome.”

He said that he liked the Pentecost Gathering because it was celebrating the presence of God and the opportunity to be a part of “something bigger than our individual worship experiences.”

Bishop Trimble also pointed out that the stole bears the symbol of the resident Bishop.  “This means that I am a shepherd for the whole flock and that I pray for all of you.”

“I count it a privilege, in this moment in history, to journey with all of you as we see what it is that God has in store…We are glad that on this day, in this moment, that we’ve come together…Today we will experience the love of Jesus Christ.”

Reflecting on the Gathering Rev. Brian Milford said, “This was not a business meeting, it was a celebration…Heaven is all-inclusive; we want to be that too.”

*Lisa Bourne is the Content Manager for the Communications Ministry Team of the Iowa Annual Conference.  Dr. Arthur McClanahan contributed to the story.