"A Church Without Boarders" - Herron Gaston, MDiv '14
Greetings! Today's post comes from Herron Gaston, M.Div '14 (above), who shares with us his experience with the Hispanic Summer Program in Puerto Rico. Thanks Herron!
A Church Without Boarders
For two weeks I was immersed in culture, community, and academia. The Hispanic Summer Program was an invaluable experience that affirmed, challenged, and stretched me in ways that I never imagined. Out of the 60 or so students in attendance, I was the only student representing Yale University for the 2012-2013 academic year.
Out of a laundry list of theological courses offered at the Oblate School of Theology, I chose to take worship and liturgy. I found this to be an extremely valuable course that has added much to my spiritual growth and development. This course was particularly fascinating as it presented an opportunity to promote unity and collaboration among ethic and non-ethnic persons, and benevolently challenged us to see and appreciate a diversity of worship styles.
I think there is value to having a liturgy that represents various cultures, even if the congregation is more or less mono-cultural. At the very least I think this opens us up to different perspectives and liturgical world-views other than our own.
The church, especially in the American context, has long been overwhelmingly mono-cultural during Sunday morning worship, and remains one of the most segregated institutions in America and across the world. If in fact the Kingdom of God is reflective of all creation, then I think our churches should indiscriminately reflect such universality.
Each day I and four other seminarians were responsible for leading the worship service. With many faces, languages, heritages, and experiences, we gathered as one ecumenical community to praise and worship God. This experience was truly a celebration—a celebration, and an invitation to share faith stories, testimonials, gifts, and God-given talents. It was an open space that promoted harmony over uniformity and Christological assimilation. And for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was in an environment that fully embraced my ecclesial culture and readily identified with my theological convictions. It challenged me to draw the circle wider—to journey outside of my social context and place of comfort—into the wandering lands of our neighbors, and to dream and long for a church with borderless boarders and that extends radical hospitality to both friend and stranger.
Similarly, my experience here at Yale Divinity School has been one of profound challenges and limitless opportunities. This close-knit community provides a safe environment that feels like home; and, although, geographically, I’m a long way from home (with home being Florida), I’ve discovered that my mother’s cooking isn’t the best in the world, but one of many delicious cuisines, especially after having experienced the many pot-lucks that are essential to the fellowship of this diverse community.