Are we doing enough to embrace diversity in our congregations?
BY CADET LEONARD HENG I CAME TO Canada with my family from Singapore in 2006 because I was attracted to the Canadian educational system and wanted to provide more options for my family. There were many challenges with emigrating to a foreign country: coping with weather conditions, housing, transportation, language, culture, people and employment opportunities. We visited churches but somehow felt alienated. I had the desire to help people who were struggling and marginalized. I was aware that The Salvation Army was a large, social services organization, but did not know that it was also a church. I decided that I would volunteer my services with the Army. When I first stepped into Toronto’s Scarborough Citadel, I was a little intimidated by those who were in uniform. Otherwise, I felt at home with the entire worship service. The music and hymns were familiar, the sermon was challenging and comforting and the preacher was personable. The people were warm, approachable and welcoming. There was also a good mix of people in the congregation. Eventually, I was asked to be their crosscultural ministries co-ordinator to serve the community, which has a population of close to 600,000 and is home to a range of ethnicities. Fifty-five percent of Scarborough residents are born outside of Canada. General William Booth valued multiculturalism and, from its early days, the Army’s leaders spoke about winning the world for Jesus. Since its inception, the Army has been concerned with the spiritual and social needs of all people, recognizing that we are made in the image of God. Regardless of our race or nationality, we are all equal in our intrinsic value. Our social services are offered on a non-discriminatory 16 I April 2013 I Salvationist
basis and our worship services are open to everyone. The Army believes that racial and multicultural integration of believers is possible within the body of Christ because the gospel transcends human culture (see Galatians 3:28). The Army is intentional in its efforts to incorporate different styles of worship to meet the diverse needs of its international community and is at work in 126 countries around the world. With such a solid reputation and rich heritage from our early leaders, the idea of welcoming people from other cultures has become entrenched in Army culture through the years. To act otherwise would be unacceptable and diametrically against the trend of Army culture. After serving as Scarborough Citadel’s cross-cultural ministries co-ordinator, I was asked to be a part of the corps’ leadership committee. My children were actively engaged with the vibrant music ministry, children and youth activities and summer camp. A year later, my wife, Peck Ee, joined the
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Yes, my family is a testimony of how the Army welcomes people of all cultures.
corps as the family services worker. As a team, we helped to connect people with activities and programs such as learning English, monthly movie nights and cultural celebrations. We also connected newcomers after worship services and invited them to join Bible study and other groups. Our food bank ministry was a blessing to those who were seeking friendship as well as food, as we introduced them to our multicultural activities. Through their involvement, people in the community were informed, inspired and connected with the corps. Music teams from different nationalities were invited to share their music