Divided house of worship celebrates diversity

Pastor David Galicia recited a prayer in Spanish and members of his congregation sang during a joint international service at Indian Creek Baptist Church on Dec. 10.

Pastor David Galicia recited a prayer in Spanish and members of his congregation sang during a joint international service at Indian Creek Baptist Church on Dec. 10.

On the surface it might appear that Indian Creek Baptist Church in Stone Mountain is a cliquish house of worship. Any Sunday, groups flock to separate areas of the church for worship led by ministers who have much in common with their congregants but who differ greatly from the other groups.

Rather than this house divided being a negative, the church celebrates diversity and for years has opened its doors to four separate churches that conduct their services in the language and tradition of their worshippers.

On Dec. 10, the five congregations came together for an annual Christmas celebration in which prayers and songs were recited and sung in the native language of worshippers. A French African church, Spanish church, Ethiopian church and Nepali church took part in the spirited service that also included singers, musicians and worship leaders from Indian Creek’s base congregation.

“We want to express the diversity of church worship,” said Indian Creek’s pastor Rob Carr, noting the languages and backgrounds of the members of the various churches. “Church brings us together under one purpose. We are all Christians. It gives us a sense of unity.”

Samuel Morris, the church’s minister of music, said he was delighted about the joint worship service.

“This is indeed a special day,” said Morris. “We have people from all different walks of life, but we worship the same God.”

The diversity at Indian Creek is nothing new. The French African church started operating under Indian Creek’s steeple in 2002, the Spanish church joined in 2011, the Ethiopians came in 2014 and the Nepali established their church in 2016.

“We know the Lord is being praised in just about every corner of our facility,” said Carr.

During the service David Galicia, pastor of the Spanish church, offered a prayer in Spanish. The pastor of the Ethiopian church, Solomon Desta, commented that “hallelujah” is an international word that everyone understands and read Bible verses in English and Amharic. At one point, Phillip Babara, pastor of the French African church, stepped down from the pulpit where all the pastors were seated and joined members of his congregation who were dancing while the 28-singer-strong Ethiopian choir sang. Members of the Spanish church also offered a song. Also during the service members of the David family read Bible passages and lit an advent candle. Nepali worshippers also sang a song in their native language while a guitarist played.

In the nearly packed church hundreds of people applauded enthusiastically, raised hands, swayed to the music and occasionally shouted during the performances.

“This is what it’s going to look like in heaven,” said Carr. “What a wonderful musical experience we have been having.”

Victor Akande, director of missions for Indian Creek Baptist Church, said this is the third year for the international joint service.

Akande said that on any Sunday every part of the church’s facility is utilized. Indian Creek members are in the main sanctuary. The French church meets in the smaller church; the Spanish church meets in the lower part of the gym and Ethiopian congregants gather in the gym’s upper level. The Nepali worshippers hold their services in the lower level of one of the buildings.

The church’s bulletin shows that during the week of Dec. 3, 458 people attended worship and Bible study with 50 from the French church, 23 from the Spanish church, 140 from the Ethiopian church and 61 from the Nepali church.

Akande said worshipping under one roof is important.

“The Bible says we are all God’s children, no Black or White in God’s kingdom,” said Akande. “When we practice this, we show the world we are all united in the name of Jesus.”

 

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