Envision a multiracial, multicultural festival of families that offers a wide array of crafts, cultural presentations and performances — in a multitude of languages, with a wide array of foods and a variety of ethnic dress and custom.
That's the vision behind a multicultural festival being planned for children and families as a pre-Synod event in Grand Rapids, Mich.
On Thursday, June 25, 2009 — just before General Synod 27 kicks off on Friday, June 26 — the UCC's Worship and Education Ministry, in partnership with St. John's UCC in Grand Rapids, will host a one-day, family-friendly event with multicultural performances, games, storytelling and music.
"Our hope is that there will be commingling of faith communities of multicultural churches in the festival in a fun, educational and non-threatening setting," says Lutie O. Lee, the UCC's minister for children and families. "Before the festival is over, strangers will have become friends."
Diverse racial-ethnic UCC congregations will be invited to create booths that will provide attendees with a taste of different traditional cultures and evolving faith practices, Lee says. Performance groups will be invited to share their arts at a center stage at regular intervals during the day.
Lee says the festival has two primary purposes.
"First, we want to begin to build a network of community and friendship across congregations and among families with different cultural backgrounds by sharing faith traditions and customs," she explains. "Second, we want to begin grass-roots information gathering about needs and desires of diverse families in the area of faith formation which may be used for future program development."
Lee says the concept grew from a faith formation group that has been meeting since last October and discussing ways to build community and enrich educational experiences across diverse constituencies.
"Rather than first pulling together a conference of family experts from academia, the faith formation group seeks first to learn directly from youth, children, families and Christian Educators about their needs and wants," Lee explains. "Out of this grass-roots information educational practices, programs and activities will grow."
St. John's UCC, where the Rev. William M. Lyons is pastor, is located about two miles from the downtown Convention Center. The congregation is hoping the multicultural festival will extend General Synod's reach into the local community, Lee says.
For more information, contact Lutie O. Lee, the UCC's minister for children and families, at <email@example.com> or toll-free at 866/822-8224, ext. 3863.