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Bridges of faith: Congregations come together for multicultural Bible study

WORTHINGTON -- "How do you say it again, Antonio?" the Rev. Jim Krapf asks.

"Fortaleceos en el Se?or," replies Antonio Colinders.

"Fortaleceos en el Se?or. Be strong in the Lord. Fortaleceos en el Se?or," repeats Krapf.

The verse is from Ephesians 6:10, a passage that talks about putting on the armor of God. It was utilized during a large-group session for an interdenominational pilot project -- a multicultural Bible study -- that was conducted over the summer.

"I kept hearing the Hispanic people saying that, and I think it has more depth than 'Have a nice day,' so I had Antonio teach me how to say that," Krapf explained. "We also did a radio devotion on KWOA on that passage."

Krapf still struggles to remember the verse and has no ambition of learning to speak Spanish. But he does hope that the pilot project will grow and continue to build bridges of faith among Worthington's cultural groups, despite language and cultural barriers.

During the summer months, Hispanic Christians from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Worthington and Christians from five predominantly Anglo congregations met in small groups for regular Bible study. Participating congregations are Krapf's church --Westminster Presbyterian -- along with Indian Lake Baptist, Church of the Brethren, First Covenant and First Lutheran churches.

The concept was developed after a group of Hispanics from St. Mary's presented Las Posadas -- a traditional Hispanic festival that re-enacts Joseph's search for room at the inn -- at Westminster during the holiday season. Colinders suggested that there might be other opportunities to expand upon the shared religious experience.

"Antonio was asking if there was any way we could come together across the cultures, to pray together, to connect," recalled Krapf. "So I took it to the ministerial association, and there were some others interested in giving it some effort through the summer to see how it would develop."

"It's a chance to build a good relationship between the churches and the communities," explained Colinders.

Pastors at the participating churches each recruited several members for the pilot project, and four groups were formed with approximately six people in each group. Each group decided when and where it would meet, with some getting together on a weekly basis and others a couple times each month. Each group also had a translator to facilitate communication. A lectionary Bible text in both English and Spanish from St. Mary's was provided as a guide.

"The pastors didn't get involved in the actual Bible studies," Krapf explained. "But we did meet two times during the summer with all the groups."

The Bible studies followed a common study structure that involved reading the passage, focusing on the words that are emphasized within the verse and then discussion by mutual invitation, with one person speaking and then inviting another person to speak, until every participant has a chance to express his or her opinion.

"I heard participants says many times that 'We felt the Holy Spirit present and guiding us,'" related Krapf.

Raoul and Alvina Gonzalez, members of St. Mary's Hispanic community, understand some English but don't feel comfortable speaking the language. Despite the language barrier, the Gonzalezes developed a close connection with the other members of their particular Bible study group.

"We don't speak very good English, but we understood each other, and we felt the Holy Spirit helping us," Alvina commented, using Colinders as a translator.

"It was a good experience because we read the Bible and shared our thoughts about God," said Raoul.

"It was very respectful," added Alvina. "We were able to create a good relationship. ... This is an opportunity especially to show our young people, to let them know that the door is not closed. The door is open for them to come and be involved in this project, no matter what church they attend."

"I saw and felt the harmony between us," Raoul continued. "This project is working because we are the same -- we are brothers -- and I am glad to participate. I would like to see this go on. ... We need to stay together, not divide or hate each other. We need to keep the friendship we have started strong."

With the pilot project deemed a success, the multicultural Bible study will continue, and hopefully expand, according to Krapf and Colinders. A meeting for anyone interested in participating will be at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 230 Clary St. Although the pilot project focused on Anglos and Hispanics, people from all cultures are welcome to participate.

Anyone who would like more information about the multicultural Bible study opportunity can contact Colinders, 370-0587, Krapf, 376-3138, the Rev. Richard Ricker, 376-6148, or the Rev. John Stewart, 376-5109.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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