For a number of years, a well-attended Diversity Day—with crafts, music groups, foods, religions, etc.—marked a Saturday in Goshen, IN. My booth focused on interreligious information/hand-outs.
Brochure distributed on Diversity Day to inform about religions and increased Hispanic population in town.
“There will be peace on earth when there is peace between religions”—Hans Kung
What if: your local newspaper gave sensitive attention to Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Jewish celebrations and practices?
What if: Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians
joined for worship events at least twice a year?
What if: we refused to be judgmental of religious groups
about which we know very little?
What if: people intent on multifaith dialogue met at least
quarterly to dialogue and genuinely hear each other?
What if: religious people truly understood and respected
other people’s experience of God?
What if: Christians were free to be spiritually enriched by
the diverse faiths present in your neighboring Counties?
What if: all people of faith were to check perceptions of
or stereotypes about other religions? Which of the above
What if: all seminaries required 3-5 courses in multifaith symbols of religions
content for students entering fields of ministry? can you identify?
What if: all churches offered youth programs that nurtured
openness to others alongside loyalty to a particular faith?
Goshen’s Religious Diversity—to Celebrate!
While the majority of Goshen residents claim the Christian faith, some likely express no religious loyalty and a very small minority practice religion as Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist adherents. No Jews live in Goshen (to my knowledge), but several types of Jews actively worship in South Bend synagogues. The Goshen Ministerial Association lists around sixty congregations as members, of which eighteen are Mennonite and seventeen Non-Denominational. The Goshen News edition published on Saturdays includes a listing of local churches.
Among other Protestant groups in the Goshen area: Brethren – nine; Missionary – six; both Methodist and Baptist – five (one being quite large); four congregations use Community in their title; Lutheran – three. Denominations with two are: Christian, Church of Christ, Church of God, Episcopal, Evangelical, Orthodox (Ukranian and Russian), Pentecostal and United Church of Christ. Groups with one parish are: Apostolic, Assembly of God, Bible, Catholic (large), Holiness, Interdenominational, Nazarene, Presbyterian, and Salvation Army. Distinct names include: Bethel Restoration Fellowship, Downtown @ 8:08, Golden Rule, Gospel Lighthouse, Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Landmark Apostolic. Several years ago a Methodist group started “the Life Center,” a non-traditional worship experience. (http://www.churchangel.com/WEBIN/goshen.htm)
While Goshen churches function mostly separate from each other, the Goshen Ministerial Association usually plans community services for Thanksgiving and Good Friday. That organization links with other ministries in town: Oaklawn a psychiatric hospital, Habitat for Humanity, the Interfaith Hospitality Network (intraChristian, rather than interfaith), and LaCasa, an organization for housing and home-ownership, savings programs, and immigration services. LaCasa’s newsletter states: “We multiply the resources of a caring community to create safe, attractive, and economically stable neighborhoods.”
Many volunteer organizations function in Goshen. Diversity Day first developed in Goshen as a response and alternate to the Ku Klux Klan’s insistence on permission for a local meeting. Openness to people of all living faiths complements personal conviction.
Sketches by Lonnie Hanzon, Interreligious Insight, Oct. 2005, p. 4
Toward Understanding Religious and Cultural Details
Points to Remember as we CELEBRATE GOSHEN’S RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY: [Feel free to add to the list.]
Some Hispanics are Roman Catholic and some are Protestant – in the U.S. and in other countries.
Freedom to choose religious loyalty is a basic human right.
Religious Good Will depends on openness to listen to others, including those who differ with you.
Hispanics in Goshen come with loyalty to at least ten different countries—further diversity.
Change is healthy. To be open to change in religious insight and expression enriches faith.
Loyalty without rigidity enables people to hear and understand faith differences.
Some Hispanic people are freely interactive and animated in settings of worship.
They love to sing, often while standing and clapping. They freely express emotions.
They depend on prayer – for each other, for God’s protection, for daily occurrences.
To share food (fellowship meals/picnics) opens up conversation between Hispanics and Anglos.
Religious expression adds vitality to life for Hispanics – as through symbols or frequent Mass.
To find ways to bridge language differences is needed.
Hispanics expend lots of energy in listening, in order to understand Anglos.
Anglos often expect Hispanics to learn English without themselves learning Spanish culture.
Hispanics relate well to (understand through personal encounters) religious events that express sorrow ,– such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, the Day of the Dead.
Worship events that celebrate events are done with enthusiasm – Easter, baptism, Quinceanos (girls at15).
As symbols of light and water are important to all living faiths, so they find meaning with Hispanics.
Some Hispanics experience racial profiling in Goshen – through police encounters, office procedures and individual’s acts that intimidate or attitudes that mistrust. Opportunity to “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” or the Golden Rule, a dictum inherent in all major living faiths, is thereby missed.
Hispanic people ‘naturally’ extend hospitality; they deserve to receive it also.
Compiled by Dorothy Yoder Nyce, based on several conversations