School of Theology
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04/27/11 11:16 am Age: 4 yrs

Worship Class Goes Above and Beyond


By: Jennifer Jorgenson

Language barrier doesn't stop students

Members of Pedrito's Worship class pray with members of a church in Seattle, Wash. Every year he takes the class on a field trip to Seattle to visit churches there. At the end of the quarter the class puts together an entire church service for a local church; the 2011 class chose to step far out of their comfort zone and conduct a service in a language other than their first.

Most professors don’t expect students to go above and beyond in their class projects, however one group of students shocked their professor with their level of dedication to a project in March.
Pedrito Maynard-Reid, professor of biblical studies and missiology at WWU, designed his class with a final project in mind; the students would work in groups to conduct a worship service at a local church of their choice.
“The worship has to fit the ethos and worship style of that congregation,” Maynard-Reid said.
So, when his students chose to work with the College Place Spanish Adventist Church, Maynard-Reid was surprised.
“We don’t have many Spanish-speaking students in our class,” he said. “I was a bit surprised and I was curious how they would pull it off,” he laughed.
Out of the seven students in the group, only one spoke Spanish as his native language. Another three students had studied abroad with the ACA (Adventist Colleges Abroad) program in Argentina, and the rest had very limited knowledge of Spanish.
Doug Stowers, senior theology major, is one of the students who had spent time in Argentina.
“A lot of times we look for the big church or the fancy church,” he said. “But right here in our own community was a little church that also needed to be blessed.”
Though this was far beyond his original vision for the project, Maynard-Reid has been pleased to see his students participating in the local church with the added language challenge.
“This is so important to me because we are sending our pastors into an Adventist American society that is more and more becoming filled with immigrants,” Maynard-Reid said. “If our pastors have that sensitivity to the Spanish work, they can pastor in multicultural congregations.”
The group met with the church pastor prior to their service to design a church service that would stretch the congregation without making them feel uncomfortable. During the service the church members conducted Sabbath School and their announcements just as they normally would, and then the students stepped in for the rest of the service. The students led the entire service in Spanish except for the children’s story which was told in English by one student and translated into Spanish by another.
For some of the students, speaking Spanish was a big barrier, but as Jolee Gaede, junior theology major, describes herself, they were adventurous students.
“We did the service in Spanish because we wanted to communicate to the congregation in their language to develop a closer connection with them,” she said.
Gaede only has one and a half years of high school Spanish experience, but she spent time practicing her special music and scripture reading so she was prepared.
“It’s always a little nerve-wracking when you don’t know a language but you’re reading scripture in it and singing in it and you’re not sure if the congregation is getting the message you’re intending,” Gaede said.
Even with the language barrier, the students and the congregation were blessed.

“We just wanted to sit down and have fun with them and worship with them,” Stowers said. “We brought in a worship painter, an artist who begins and completes a painting during the church service, which is something I’m certain has never happened in the history of their church. I think it was a very positive experience for everyone in the congregation and for us who were involved.”
“[This project] showed me again that language barriers are not as big an obstacle as we make them out to be,” Gaede said. “People are still able to develop community among one another even if they never speak a word alike.”

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