Reflecting the International Flavour of Halifax
Grace Chapel, Halifax, NS
Earlier this summer, Grace Chapel in Halifax, NS hosted a multi-lingual worship service, including the four different congregations that use their building.
Arabic Christian Church.
Rehoboth Ethiopian Church.
Fountain of Life Sudanese Church.
Shoukrey from the Arabic church led the call to worship.
Bayssa from the Ethiopian church preached the sermon.
Yaboub from the Sudanese church prayed.
Ross from Grace Chapel hosted and welcomed, connecting people and facilitating a sense of community.
People felt at home as over 15 languages were spoken during the worship service.
There was a beautiful diversity of faces and languages and dress.
And at the same time, the common thread of the love of Jesus.
Christ as the Cornerstone was clear.
The leaders of the four congregations (Ross, Shoukrey, Bayssa, and Yaboub) wanted to join together in worship - as a sign of Christian unity,
as practising the love they extend to one another,
as a foretaste of heaven.
That joint church service was a taste of heaven - the many nations represented,
the many languages praising God,
the unity of the body of God.
Ten years ago, Grace Chapel began to pray that they as a church body would reflect the international flavour of their city of Halifax.
They knew the danger of becoming isolated and they wanted to share their space well.
As Ross says, “It’s the Lord’s building.”
One of the elders at Grace, Darlene, began to lead English as an additional language classes.
Their circle began to grow.
Another elder, Sam, says people at Grace have prayed over the years with a special focus of reaching out to others - across the borders of culture and language.
That prayer was the bedrock for what was to come.
It was an answer to prayer when two women from Grace introduced the Ethiopian congregation to their space.
Thus began the tradition of sharing space.
Now, the Arabic Christian Church meets at Grace Chapel Saturday evenings.
Along with the Fountain of Life Sudanese congregation.
On Sundays, Grace Chapel worships in the morning and then the Rehoboth Ethiopian Church gathers in the afternoons.
Bayssa, the Ethiopian pastor, says the chapel feels like their own building.
They feel so at home and loved by Grace Chapel.
They also feel a sense of responsibility towards to the upkeep of the building.
Shoukrey, the Arabic pastor, also says that it feels like their own church.
They appreciate that they can use the building for free.
Rental space is so expensive in Halifax, that they recognize this as a real gift.
When I asked about division and racism, the pastors reflected on their experiences and were keen to point out that instead of prejudice and racism, it was their shared humanity which had been most emphasized over the years.
They also recognized the gift of each other - how they can learn from each other and grow in appreciation for their differences.
Instead of language and culture dividing them, their common focus on Jesus brings them together in a beautiful way.
As I listened to these four pastors from very different congregations talk about their shared space at Grace Chapel, the grace of God was evident.
There was mutual appreciation and an honouring of one another.