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Cultural Encounter WOW!

By Pat Taylor

The people and friends of St. Barnabas cannot thank the Families with Children ministry for the wonderful day they gave us on Sunday, February 24, with Cultural Encounter Sunday.

The traditional service, interspersed with music and song from other countries as well as the Lord’s Prayer read in Chinese, Dutch, French, Italian, Tamil (India), and Sinhala (Sri Lanka), filled everyone with love, delight, and full hearts.

The anthem chorale rendition of “Down by the Riverside” performed by the Sound of Joy choir and the St. Barnabas choir was a hand-clapping, body-swaying spiritual that used to be sung by slaves in the South as a work song. The song refers to biblical imagery such as baptism (white robe), the River Jordan, Jesus (Prince of Peace), and heaven (road to heaven.)

In addition, the Sound of Joy choir, directed by Dr. Aik Khai Pung, performed the offertory hymn, “What a Beautiful Jasmine Flower,” and the benediction hymn, “Farewell at Yangguan,” both in Chinese. Sound of Joy is a local choir consisting of 30 amateur singers of Chinese Heritage. Their mission is to meet friends through singing and to engage in community services. They rehearse weekly at St. Barnabas.

Adam Hayden, chapter coordinator, Kids4Peace Cincinnati, gave a presentation about the program. Jack Fechter, a St. Barnabas parishioner, and Noura Alalemi, a Muslim participant, spoke of their personal experiences. Kids4Peace is a global movement of youth and families, dedicated to ending conflict and inspiring hope in divided societies around the world. They operate international summer camps, leadership programs, and a six-year, year-round program for more than 500 Palestinians, Israeli, and North American youth. The Cincinnati chapter hosts a week-long interfaith day camp each summer, and St. Barnabas has been proud to be the Christian host since 2010.

The four Yeoh children performed as two trios before and during the service. Ally, viola, Jamie, cello, and William, cello played a traditional Chinese folk song called "Dreaming by the Riverside.” Lizzy, violin, Ally, violin, and William, cello, played the first movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto in A Minor.”

Parishioner Chang Ji played the viola in a duet with Michael Chertock on the piano.

As the service ended, the Cincinnati Baila Dance Academy performed folk dances from Mexico. The organization is dedicated to the cultural formation of children by exposing them to their Hispanic heritage. Dancers were in three skill levels: advanced, intermediate and beginners.

The service ended with a parade of people dressed in the costumes of their heritage. Represented were Canada, China, England, India, Sri Lanka, Scotland, Norway—and the State of Florida.

But, of course, the day wasn’t over! Downstairs everyone went to line up and sample foods from 20 different tables, each representing a popular food item of a place the person calls home. There was everything from Texas chili (the closest thing to Mexico, according to Margaret Nelsen who made it), escargot representing France by Diane Krumanaker, and chorizo and cheese representing Spain by Emily Holcomb, along with many, many more. A traditional Cincinnati chili lunch was available, and we ate 128 bowls of Cincinnati chili and/or spaghetti along with Greek salad.

There were also crafts and activities for children and youth, including lantern making hosted by the Hockenbery's, marionette puppets hosted by the Zalba's, and a variation of ga-ga ball hosted by Kids4Peace. Parishioners were invited to participate by making a poster to share their family's story.

Marie Trelka provided the beautiful table décor. According to Margo Rapp, who chaired the committee, there was zero budget for this event. It was completely funded by donations (most made by young families) in an effort to raise as much money as possible for St. Barnabas Outreach. “Lastly, Cathy Zalba is compiling recipes from the event into a cookbook which we will sell for a modest fee to continue to benefit Outreach”, Margo said.

Afterwards, the comments ranged from “It was an amazing, fun event” to “Our daughter really enjoyed the cultural Sunday today as did we. It was very well done.” Another: “I thought it was a fantastic event! People were really engaged during the service, and I was so impressed by the kids from Kids4Peace. I’m so happy to work with such a loving, inclusive, thoughtful group of people.”

So far, $684 was raised. The Outreach Committee voted to give these funds to Kids4Peace for camp scholarships or other critical needs. Well done, committee and Families with Young Children ministry. And thank you for wanting to do this for us!


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