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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Secret Sauce conference in Atlanta opens with multilingual worship


‘God is a god of new beginnings’ says conference preacher the Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon

June 26, 2023

The Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon preaches during opening worship for “What’s the Special Sauce?” conference. (Photo by Beth Waltemath)

The “What’s the Secret Sauce?” conference sponsored by the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s 1001 New Worshiping Communities and the New Church Development Commission of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta recently welcomed more than 80 participants in a dozen languages with barbecue from three countries and a joyous worship service. Colleagues in the Office of General Assembly and the PMA’s Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries were also partners in the event.

Music leader Ricardo Lira gathered the witnesses as they streamed into the sanctuary of North Avenue Presbyterian Church with a song he wrote just for the occasion: “There’s a secret sauce in me. There’s a secret sauce in you. There’s a secret sauce in us! Show me how you say, ‘Everything’s OK ’cause our love will make a way.’ Try to say again, ‘todo va a estar bien!’”

The three-day conference was designed to be a “time of listening, sharing, worshiping and savoring the wisdom of immigrant new worshiping communities,” with a particular focus on exploring “the ingredients of successful partnerships with immigrant new worshiping communities.”

Opening worship featured liturgy celebrating the immigrant experience and original music written to lift up multiple languages represented to express how God is good.

Worship leaders Sylvie Kabanga and Elisabelle Kaputo invited people to dance and bless those across the aisle while singing in Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili and English: “Deus te tåo bom. Dios bueno es. Mungu ni mwema. God is good.”

Worship leaders Sylvie Kabanga and Elisabelle Kaputo from Shalom International Ministry in Clarkston, Georgia, sing in Portugese, Spanish, Swahili and English. (Photo by Beth Waltemath)

While liturgist the Rev. Sarah Lane, organizing pastor of Zo Presbyterian Church, read Scripture in Zo, Mulumba Balbgelway, pastor of New Jerusalem Gospel Church, offered prayers of the people in Swahili. The Rev. Kwasi Aye-Addo, founding pastor of Ebenezer Ghanaian Presbyterian Church and the organizing pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church, gave a benediction in Twi.

The Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon, vice president for Ministry Innovation at the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said the “secret sauce is the Word of God” in a sermon he delivered titled “When God Does a New Thing” and based on the New International Version translation of Isaiah 43:18–19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing.” Cannon invited listeners not to let the obstacles of the past interfere with seeing what God is doing right now.

Arelis M. Figueroa, leader of a new worshiping community through the Kairos Center in New York City, sings the anthem “No Me Llames Extranjero (Don’t Call Me an Alien)” by Rafael Amor. (Photo by Beth Waltemath)

“The prophet Isaiah warns us that if we focus on our past successes and say, ‘Look at what I did or how I got over this or what I’ve done,’ you will never do anything new,” preached Cannon. “If you want to do things the way they’ve always been done, keep doing what you’ve always been doing. But if you want to do something different, if you do want to do something great, you’ve got to be faithful and do the new thing God calls you to do. Stop trying to put new wine into old wineskins.”

“You’ve got to give people hope,” Cannon told the worshipers. He described various scenarios of difficulties and turbulence that happen when communities are trying new things or learning how to partner with others who approach things differently. “The Word that liberates, the Word of love, the Word that will see you through is what will get you through a tough situation.”

God is worshiped in at least 14 different languages across the denomination, according to promotions for this event. But Cannon pointed out what is shared among all and what empowers all is the Word of God.

“I believe the secret sauce is the Word of Almighty God. And I believe that as you come here this week over these next 48 hours, that God’s gonna help us see that the church that God made for everybody … the church that God wants everybody to be a part of … is the church where God is doing new things.”

Beth Waltemath, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Secret Sauce conference

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Rosemary Gallagher,  Vice President & Controller, Finance, Board of Pensions
Louisa Gallup, Project Associate, Director’s Office, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

Gracious God, you have blessed us to be a blessing to others. In seeking to care for others, we care for ourselves. In seeking to feed the hungry, we feed ourselves. In seeking to share our blessings, we are reconciled to become the church you created us to be. Open our hearts that we may respond always in the love of Christ. Amen.