Opting for monoculturalism in worship

This week MPR’s Nikki Tundel has been looking at diversity, and how it’s reflected in houses of worship. While there’s a small but growing movement in the United States to make Sunday morning church services more culturally diverse, Tundel reports the vast majority of the nation’s religious services remain monocultural, with just one language, race or ethnic group represented.


The congregation at Mindekirken is comprised of Norwegian immigrants. Some arrived in recent years. Others are the descents of those who made their way to Minnesota in the early 1900s.

MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

On a Sunday morning at Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, the first service lets out. In a few hours, a Latino congregation will fill the pews. But right now, an Ethiopian preacher takes the pulpit.

The sanctuary is certainly large enough for all three ministries to worship together in one combined service. Nearly all the congregants can speak English. But each group prefers to praise God separately.

Roland Wells, pastor at Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church says that “typically churches tend to be very culturally, linguistically isolated because people want to be with people who are like them.”

Wells has been preaching at St. Paul’s for over 20 years and is an expert on diversity in the nation’s churches. He says that despite the image of the American melting pot, monocultural congregations have always been a part of the country’s immigrant heritage.

“You can imagine how hard this would be for an immigrant if I said, ‘Today you’re going to go join a Korean church.’ How long is it going to take you until you can understand the sermon, until you can know what to cook for a potluck and before you can be in a Bible study, speak heart to heart, face to face, faith to faith,” Wells said. “The immigrant church for many people is their one experience during the week where the other people get them 100 percent.”

You can read the rest of the story, and check out an excellent slideshow, here.

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