Uniting Nations Through Multiethnicity
When Karen C. Rydwansky planted Crossroads Worship Center in the Boston suburb of Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 2003, she intentionally determined to make it an international church.
Seventeen years later, Crossroads is now home to nearly 300 congregants representing more than 40 nationalities.
Although Rydwansky had no senior pastor experience prior to starting Crossroads, she had been actively involved in ministry, serving in a variety of positions, including Women’s Ministries director and executive presbyter for the Southern New England Ministry Network.
Throughout her ministry, she had been drawn to various ethnicities, who move to New England for various educational and business opportunities.
“Our church really is a reflection of a heart for the nations,” says Rydwansky, an ordained Assemblies of God minister. “We didn’t have a strategy to reach out to a certain community.”
Pastoring such a linguistically and ethnically diverse congregation comes with its share of challenges. To help bring unity, Rydwansky has recruited a healthy ethnic mix to the leadership team. The pastoral staff, church board, worship team, and other leadership positions reflect a balance of nationality, ethnicity, and gender.
“We have been very strategic in how our platform looks,” says Rydwansky, 76. “It’s important that whoever comes into the church sees that.”
To maintain continuity within a multiethnic congregation, Crossroads holds corporate services in English and offers translation headsets for those who need them. This helps immigrants to the Boston area assimilate their families into American culture much easier. The church includes attendees from India, South Korea, Haiti, Jamaica, Angola, Nigeria, Bolivia, and Trinidad and Tobago, among other places.
“We feel strongly that the initial group that comes in will often stay in their subculture,” says Rydwansky. “However, if they don’t connect their children in an English-speaking church, they will probably lose their kids by the second or third generation.”
Pursuing harmony within a multiethnic congregation also offers a unique opportunity for creative problem-solving solutions.
“We try to learn from one another and ask what is important,” says Brazilian native Vinnie M. Trivelli, associate pastor at Crossroads and director of the Portuguese language translation services. “One key is communication.”
A critical component to effective cross-cultural leadership at Crossroads is the creation of a leadership team that meets periodically to discuss cultural cues and traditions among the various ethnic groups represented in the church. As both Rydwansky and Trivelli, 50, have learned, sometimes simple differences can lead to hurtful outcomes, especially when it comes to pastoral care roles and responsibilities.
“We can offend with something so natural and normal in our culture without even realizing it,” says Rydwansky. For instance, most Brazilians make a big deal out of celebrating birthdays. But some Africans don’t even know the date they were born.
“When we all come together as one, it doesn’t matter where you come from,” says Trivelli, an ordained AG minister. “What matters is we are all one in Christ.”