Hope Lutheran hosts diversity conference
About 50 people from a dozen area Christian congregations gathered at Hope Lutheran Church on North Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights on May 22 to both celebrate and consider the challenges of ministry in diverse communities.
The conference -- "Diversity in the Church: Lessons Learned" -- explored multicultural ministry not only in terms of race, but also age, gender and sexual orientation.
It was a day for small churches – Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian and United Church of Christ -- to share their experiences and look to the future.
Among the Heights congregations participating were Christ Episcopal Church, Church of the Redeemer (United Methodist), Noble Road Presbyterian and Bethlehem, Grace and Hope Lutheran churches.
The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, minister for racial justice in the national office of the United Church of Christ, and the Rev. Abraham Allende, pastor of Lutheran Church of the Covenant in Maple Heights and the former developer of a Latino mission in Canton, opened the day with a discussion of the importance and continuing challenge of diversity in the church.
And the Rev. Christine Thompson, assistant to the bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the synod's mission developer in the Detroit-Shoreway area of Cleveland, led a discussion of outreach in multicultural communities.
Church of the Redeemer (United Methodist) led a session on how the congregation puts together multicultural worship services. Pastor Jessica Shields of Bethlehem Lutheran Church and her husband, Rev. Brian Shields, a chaplain at the Cleveland Clinic, led a session on race, culture and education.
Hope Pastor Don King and three other area pastors from Heights congregations – Rev. Peter Faass of Christ Episcopal, Rev. Karen Graham of Church of the Redeemer and Rev. Francis Miller of Noble Road Presbyterian – led a roundtable discussion on welcoming gay and lesbian people.
The day concluded with a closing "Vigil of Pentecost Worship," with the reading of scripture and Pastors King and Graham presiding over communion.
The music for the service included an African-American spiritual led by Church of the Redeemer and a folk song led by Noble Road Presbyterian a Lutheran hymn led on piano by Pastor Karen Ullestad of Lutheran Church of the Master in Bedford.
Mark Rollenhagen is a pastoral intern at Hope Lutheran Church and coordinated the "Diversity in the Church: Lessons Learned" conference.