In Galatians 3:28, the Apostle Paul tells us that, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
His message to us is clear: We are one in Christ regardless of our background, origin, ethnic heritage, age, gender or any other differences. In this lies unity, strength, comfort, and hope.
The St. Louis Central Church has enjoyed a wide variety of cultural and national diversity with members from every corner of the globe. In celebration of this fact, we recently held our fifth annual International Sabbath. This includes a Parade of Nations during Sabbath services, which serves as a moving reminder of the picture God has given us in Revelation 7:9: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…” This year 30 countries were represented, with members each dressed in an impressive presentation of national colors and outfits.
Another high point of the day is the International Food Festival, which has become by far the largest collaborative effort our church has undertaken. The Forsyth School next door provides their gymnasium as the venue for the occasion, and a small army of members prepare a great variety of wonderful dishes from all around the world.
We promoted the event through social media and drew between 500 – 600 people, most of whom are from the community. Though the food is free, the festival also serves as a fundraiser. This year we were able to collect canned food and monetary donations for local Adventist Community Services projects.
As a follow up to the International Food Festival, we have also been hosting an International Cooking Series. It’s an ongoing class featuring food demonstrations from a different country each month.
In Counsels to the Church, Ellen White writes, “Therefore God wants the different nationalities to mingle together, to be one in judgement, one in purpose. Then the union that there is in Christ will be exemplified” (p. 288). The success of these events has generated a lot of interest, enthusiasm, and momentum among members and guests. The diversity of food is rich and wonderful, but it’s also a celebration of the cultural diversity within our church family that helps establish a greater presence in the community.
We’re grateful for the many members who volunteer their time and work together to make it happen, and we praise God for helping us recognize what a precious gift our diversity really is.