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Worship Resources on Cultural Diversity and Racism

Scripture

The following biblical texts are provided as inspiration for preaching and worship that address the gifts and challenges of cultural diversity and the problems of racism.

Leviticus 19:13-18
“you shall love your neighbor as yourself”

Psalm 133
“How very good ... it is when kindred live together in unity”

Isaiah 58:1-14
“to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke”

Acts 2:1-21
“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh”

Galatians 3:26-29
“in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”

Ephesians 2:13-22
Christ “has broken down the dividing wall ... between us”

Matthew 22:34-39
“You shall love the Lord,” “You shall love your neighbor”

Call to Worship

As we are called by God to worship through words from scripture, we celebrate the diversity of the people of God and bear witness to our unity in Christ.

  1. Jesus said: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
    By this everyone will know that we are Christ’s disciples,
    if we have love for one another.
    John 13:34-35
  2. God declares: I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.
    Our sons and our daughters shall prophesy; our young shall see visions, and our old shall dream dreams. Acts 2:17
  3. Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
    For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
  4. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you.
    Let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
    Amos 5:14, 24

Confession of Sin

In the Confession of Sin, we lament the evil of racism and all its consequences, as we confess our own prejudices and our complicity in systems of domination and injustice.

Gracious God,
in Jesus Christ you teach us to love our neighbors,
but we build dividing walls of hostility.
You show us how to love one another as sisters and brothers
but we hide ourselves from our own human family.
You ask us to seek out the stranger and welcome the guest,
but we lock ourselves up inside our own fear.
You want us to share your abundant gifts with the poor,
but we cling tightly to our possessions and our privilege.
You call us to proclaim good news to all people,
but we waste our words and hide our light.

Have mercy on us, loving God.
Forgive our sin, open our hearts, and change our lives.
By your Spirit, make us holy and whole—
one people, united in faith, hope, and love;
through Jesus Christ, our reconciler and redeemer.

Affirmation of Faith

The following statements from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Confessions relate to issues of race and culture and would serve as appropriate Affirmations of Faith.

  1. The Confession of 1967   9.44 (adapted)
    God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. With reconciling love, God overcomes the barriers between brothers and sisters and breaks down every form of discrimination based on racial or ethnic difference, real or imaginary. The church is called to bring all people to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore, the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize others, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess.
  2. A Brief Statement of Faith   10.3
    We trust in God, whom Jesus called Abba, Father. In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God’s image, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community. But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator. Ignoring God’s commandments, we violate the image of God in others and ourselves, accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care. We deserve God’s condemnation. Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation. In everlasting love, the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people to bless all families of the earth. Hearing their cry, God delivered the children of Israel from the house of bondage. Loving us still, God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant. Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child, like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home, God is faithful still.

Prayers of the People

In the Prayers of the People, we express to God our gratitude for the wonderful diversity of the world’s people and the many gifts of human cultures, even as we pray that Christ’s realm of justice, peace, equality, and dignity for all will quickly come.

God of manifold mystery, we give thanks that you have made each person in your image, and in Jesus Christ, have showed us how to love one another, even as Christ loves us. Hear now our prayers for the world, for the church, and for the whole human family.

For the church universal, in its ministry and mission throughout the world,
that we may truly be the body of Christ in glorious unity and beautiful diversity.
God of mercy, hear our prayer.

For this congregation for your people, that we may always welcome the stranger, lift up the lowly, and show Christ-like love to all your children.
God of mercy, hear our prayer.

For the leaders and people of this and every nation,
that they will pursue peace, justice, and fullness of life for all.
God of mercy, hear our prayer.

For the earth that you have made, that we may learn to heal its brokenness, cherish its gifts, and ensure that all people may share in its abundance.
God of mercy, hear our prayer.

For this city/town and those who govern, that they will seek the well being of all, building communities of safety, education, and opportunity for everyone.
God of mercy, hear our prayer.

For the poor and oppressed, especially those excluded because of their race or culture, that they may be empowered by your Spirit, and that their voices may be heard.
God of mercy, hear our prayer.

For those who are sick and those who mourn, and for all who suffer in any way, that they will know your saving power and healing embrace.
God of mercy, hear our prayer.

For … (special joys or concerns may be shared aloud or offered in silence)
God of mercy, hear our prayer.

We give thanks for all those who have gone before us, giving us hope and courage — prophets, visionaries, and activists who bore witness to your beloved community.
God of mercy, hear our prayer.

Faithful God, our strength and our hope, make us ready to greet your new creation, where saints of every time and place join in the song of your liberating love; we pray these things through Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Hymn Suggestions

The following hymns and songs from The Presbyterian Hymnal and Sing the Faith would be particularly appropriate for services dealing with issues of cultural diversity and racism.

Christ Is Alive! PH 108
O God of Every Nation PH 289
We Meet You, O Christ PH 311
Called as Partners in Christ’s Service PH 343
Help Us Accept Each Other PH 358
Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love PH 367
O for a World PH 386
Canto de Esperanza / Song of Hope PH 432
We Are Your People PH 436
In Christ There Is No East or West PH 439 or 440
Here, O Lord, Your Servants Gather PH 465
Lift Every Voice and Sing PH 563
God Made from One Blood STF 2170
We Are Called STF 2172
Freedom is Coming STF 2192
O Freedom STF 2194
Who is My Mother, Who is My Brother? STF 2225
Sacred the Body STF 2228
We Are One in Christ Jesus / Somos Uno STF 2229
Come Now, O Prince of Peace / O-So-So STF 2232
We Are Marching / Siyahamba STF 2235-a and b
In the Midst of New Dimensions STF 2238

Bibliography

Kathy Black, Worship Across Cultures: A Handbook (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998)

Melva Costen, African American Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993)

Mark R. Francis, Liturgy in a Multicultural Community (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991)

Mark R. Francis, Shape a Circle Ever Wider: Liturgical Inculturation in the United States (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2000)

Justo L. Gonzales, ed. ¡Alabadle! Hispanic Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996)

Kimberly Bracken Long, ed. “Worship and Culture,” Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching, and the Arts 41.2 (2007)

Pedrito U. Maynard-Reid, Diverse Worship: African-American, Caribbean, and Hispanic Perspectives (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000)

Su Yon Pak, Unzu Lee, Jung Ha Kim, and Myung Ji Cho, Singing the Lord’s Song in a New Land: Korean American Practices of Faith (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005)

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