Have you ever heard the term 'melting pot'?
It basically refers to a situation where you have lots of different types of people thrown in together, and they start to share and take on aspects of each other's identity. A marriage is a micro-example, a multicultural city is a macro-example.
The city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia is one such city. According to the Victorian Multicultural Commission, the 2011 Australian national census found 46.8% of Victorians were born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas, came from more than 200 countries, spoke around 250 languages and followed around 135 faiths.
Sometimes I ask myself what will hold us all together. Will we end up in segregated monocultural-enclaves, or will we look for the common denominators and create a new, mish-mash culture that represents everyone's backgrounds proportionately?
Multicultural churches in such a context have an excellent opportunity to show what a vibrantly diverse but unified community could look like, because all of the members share a common faith in Jesus and the shared task of advancing the Kingdom of Heaven.
Vision of Heaven
We already have a picture for what this ultimately looks like in Revelation chapter 7, verses 9 to 10:
'After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, "Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb!"'
The Body of Christ
What does this picture tell us about the Body of Christ?
For starters, it is diverse! Every nation, tribe and tongue is represented.
What else? The Body is completely united. The only focus is on worshipping and serving God and the Lamb (Jesus).
So this got me to thinking: how could I better celebrate the ethnic diversity in my local congregation? How could I contribute to unity among English-speaking and 'ethnic' churches in my area to reach our multicultural communities for Christ?
Well, as I said earlier, the idea of a melting pot is to share something from your background, and to incorporate something from others' backgrounds so you end up with more in common. And being a musician, songwriter and translator, I could share Spanish worship songs I learnt while on exchange in Argentina with my local church in Melbourne, in English.
The potential for these songs to be relevant in my area is greater than just my own interest, because many of the same songs are also sung in my local Spanish-speaking congregations.
Maybe these churches could include some English-language verses to welcome English-speaking friends and family to their services. And then my English-speaking church could start to include some verses in Spanish (and Nigerian, and Hindi, and German, and Dutch...) so church members could invite their non-English speaking friends and family.
Imagine the diversity of worship music from around the world which could be enjoyed in multicultural, melting-pot congregations!
So for the uni project, I needed to translate 12-15,000 words. This brought me to a total of 52 contemporary Christian songs written in Spanish to translate into English. The songs are from 10 different countries and 17 different musical genres (talk about diversity), and include 'congregational' songs as well as 'recorded' songs enjoyed via Christian radio, YouTube and iTunes.
Ironically, the day I will hand in my completed song-translation project at uni is four days after my last day at my church before moving to Peru, so I won't have the opportunity to introduce the translated songs to my local congregation straight away.
However, translating Spanish worship songs has brought me to an important revelation: every culture and every person reveals something unique about the character of God.
Celebrating the image of God in each other
Whether it is immediately obvious or takes a little more searching, God's trademark imprint can be found everywhere you look – in details of creation, in a sight, in a sound, a taste, a word, a sense of humour, a thoughtful act. And no two glimpses of him are exactly alike!
In Spanish-language Christian music, I encountered an incredible joy and spirit of celebration in God that I would like to share in English. And that is without even scratching the surface of what other Christian worship traditions have to offer – stylistic and generational music cultures as well as international ones.
Translating worship music has been a lot of fun, and I truly hope Father will give me the opportunity one day to share the translated songs as a blessing to the Body. In the meantime, I am inspired to start looking for him everywhere, to delight in and celebrate his likeness in the expressive diversity of his Family so the world will see our wonderful, multi-faceted Lord clearly for who he is.
Will you join me?
Rosanne Menacho is a member of Yahweh's royal household, a much loved daughter, sister and wife and a part-time student of translation. Her heart is to release freedom and joy in Christ, and to see Heaven come on Earth.
Rosanne Menacho's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rosanne-menacho.html