How First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church of Newark,
NJ, Became an International, Multicultural church
Written in 2006 by retired pastor Glenn Hatfield,
at the request of and in consultation with current pastor Felix
Some churches call it "multicultural" to rent space to a church of
another culture, or to have more than one cultural or language group
as part of one church, but with separate meeting times or rooms.
Under some circumstances, these can be valid approaches. However,
Peddie's approach to multiculturalism is to have all groups involved
in one church, interacting with each other as Christian brothers
and sisters in most activities. Although Peddie still uses the terminology "multicultural," this
form of being "multicultural" is now increasingly called being "intercultural."
Initially, Peddie's members were all white and mostly Scottish. Now
it's an international, multi-cultural church with more than 200 members
from 23 nations, speaking more than 30 languages. For more than a
quarter century, an annual event at which its multiculturalism is
most obvious is its annual International Sunday, now celebrated on
Pentecost Sunday. The first Pentecost two millennia ago WAS a multicultural,
international gathering. Acts 2:9 lists 15 nations or ethnic groups
present; they spoke many "tongues."
On Peddie's Pentecost or International Sunday, large flags of the
nations represented in the membership are displayed. People wear
the clothing usually worn in their country of origin. Bible readings
are in many languages. There is ethnic music. The Lord's Prayer is
prayed in many tongues simultaneously - quietly, as people listen
to all the languages rising to God along with their own. After worship,
there is an international food festival where people learn to enjoy
the dishes of other ethnicities. This unity in diversity is joyfully
felt to be a Holy Spirit blessing. Visitors often say, "This is the
way a church should be."
It took a long time to develop a multicultural church. The path began
in 1801 when 12 members started the church and soon built a small
frame church house. As the congregation grew, they built a mid-sized
brick building. One wealthy member, Thomas Baldwin Peddie, who joined
the church in 1852 when it was half a century old, gave the present
building to the church. The building, completed in 1890, is of outstanding
beauty, and will seat more than 1,000 worshippers. Just before it
was completed, Mr. Peddie died, and the grateful congregation changed
the church's name from "First Baptist Church" to "First Baptist Peddie
Memorial Church." For brevity and simplicity, here it will be called
simply "Peddie Church" or "Peddie," whether referring to the time
before or after the name change.
THEOLOGICAL UNDERGIRDING specifically
FOR multiculturalism has been the main factor in Peddie's becoming
multicultural. The Biblical emphasis upon multiculturalism at Peddie
probably was sharpened mostly by its five most recent pastors, beginning
in 1953 - Pastors Drummond, Hunt, King, Hatfield, and (currently)
Comment: Dr. Martin Luther King observed
that the most segregated gatherings in America are at our Sunday
worship services. This is still true. While many mono-cultural churches
are necessary, valuable, and pleasing to God, King's comment is,
nevertheless, to some extent a general indictment against the Christian
community as a whole - since Christ, the Bible, and good theology,
if properly heeded, would move many churches toward becoming more
Attached to this document is a brief paper, titled "Theological Undergirding," citing
a few of the many Biblical passages and books that address the theme
of churches being more inclusive and multicultural, as a matter of
theological conviction and spiritual integrity.
One early step toward multiculturalism probably was the one Peddie
took in 1811 - a decision to have a pastor who was not only sincerely
spiritual, but also WELL EDUCATED.
Some members sharply differed, holding that only "spirituality" mattered
and that education was not important - the church's first serious
controversy that resulted in some members leaving. The pastor at
the time, whose views prevailed, said that should the church choose
to not have an educated pastor "folly and imprudence (would) become
(their) teacher." Since then, Peddie has tried to prayerfully select
pastors who were both spiritually dedicated and well educated.
Comment: Good education opens hearts and
minds in many ways - including toward Christian multiculturalism - which
therefore can be furthered by seminaries having multicultural faculties
and providing good multicultural training, by denominations maintaining
high God-honoring educational standards for clergy, and by churches
being careful to call ministers whose hearts and minds are open to
the movement of God's Spirit.
Peddie's long held attitudes of COMPASSIONATE
OPENESS paved the way for its multiculturalism. Although it
has had some controversies such as the one in 1811, it has a long
history of compassion, friendliness, openness, and Christian dedication,
and little dogmatism, closed-mindedness, moralistic self-righteousness,
etc. It really believes in loving ALL of the people God created.
There has been evidence that such an attitude has been nourished
from the pulpit and practiced in the congregation for many many years.
Comment: Christian harmony can lead to
multicultural relationships, and once a church is on the path toward
multiculturalism, is even more necessary. That's because people of
different languages and nationalities have different perceptions
about being a church. It is necessary to honor cultures and viewpoints
other than ones own, and stress Christian harmony and love that transcends
some very real differences.
Being a MISSIONAL CHURCH over the years
is another factor that paved the way for Peddie to become multicultural.
Peddie gave birth to several Baptist Churches in Newark, and helped
start one in India. From early times, Peddie people have loved the
people of other nations enough to have a desire for their general
welfare and Christian conversion, and therefore to pray sincerely
and give substantially to support American Baptist's international
ministries. More recently, when so many immigrants have been coming
to the USA, it was natural to continue outreach to them here, just
as had been done by outreach to them when they lived in other nations.
Comment: Although it's not always the case,
an emphasis on international ministry can feed a sense of multiculturalism,
and vice versa.
Long having had an INTERRACIAL MEMBERSHIP has
been a factor. An early group of Peddie's non-Scottish members were
black Americans (then called "colored"). The church had black members
so far back that nobody seems to know when or how this step was achieved.
It is known only that there were so many black members that they
decided they wanted their own separate church. So in 1871, in good
will, Peddie became the mother church of Bethany Baptist Church,
Newark's first "colored" church. The friendship with Bethany continues.
Some black members must have stayed on at Peddie, for there were
still black members at Peddie after 1871. As far back as anybody
knows about, there has been a considerable spirit of openness at
Peddie. Even when Mr. Peddie gave the church its present building,
he was vigorous in stating his intent and hope for building to be
used not only for church functions, but also for good community gatherings,
and that it should remain a house of prayer for ALL people.
Comment: "Multicultural" and "interracial," though
not synonyms, are kindred terms. For a church to achieve either can
help to achieve the other.
A PRINCIPLED STAND ON RACIAL JUSTICE undergirded
Peddie's move toward greater multiculturism. In 1963, Horace Hunt
became Peddie's pastor. In 1967 Newark had a racial riot, which was
a rebellion against racial injustice in the city. That same year,
American Baptists' Board of National Ministries sent Glenn Hatfield
(later to become Peddie's pastor) to Newark as Director of the (former)
Newark Christian Center and to work on an ecumenical team to help
the city address racial injustice and restore peace. Hunt was instrumental
in creating this team (Metropolitan Ecumenical Ministries) and later
was called to be its Executive Director. Peddie housed this ecumenical
movement in its early stages.
Because of Newark's racial troubles, property values declined, some
white churches and many white families fled to the suburbs, and Newark's
white churches either closed or shrank. Despite some discomfort,
Peddie held firm, stayed, and continued to minister. Since it also
lost some of its white members, by simple arithmetic it was left
as a more multicultural church. And since the non-Caucasian people
began to see that Peddie really cared, a few more of them joined.
Comment: Becoming multicultural can help
save the life of a dying inner city church, but also involves the
necessity to understand the frustration and problems of groups other
than one's own and some willingness to "go to bat" for them and their
Having a MULTI-CULTURAL CHURCH STAFF was
important in becoming multicultural. Since quite a few Chinese lived
in Peddie's neighborhood, the church called a part time Chinese "local
missionary" in 1960, and launched some effort to reach out to Chinese,
with some limited success. The title of this part time position has
since been changed to "assistant to the pastor," and the position
has been filled by one other Chinese minister, a Filipino minister,
and (now) a Korean minister. In 2001, the Filipino minister, Felix
Tingson, was called to be Peddie's first non-Caucasian pastor, and
in this role is currently serving capably. Peddie also has filled
non clergy positions (secretary, choir director, sexton, etc.) with
people of various ethnicities.
Comment: Few people who are not part of
a church's dominant culture will become members of a church that
is not sensitive enough to be multicultural in its "employment" practices.
BEING INTENTIONAL ABOUT OUTREACH to
other ethnic groups was part of Peddie's process. For instance, Pastor
King (1970 & following) led the church to focus strategically on
Chinese outreach. Accordingly, the church began holding events that
were attractive to Chinese (such as celebrating the Chinese new year) -also
on translating, printing, and handing out tracts and other outreach
materials to Chinese; and having telephone campaigns to Chinese people
whose names can sometimes be picked from the phone books - Chin,
Chang, Wang, Wong, etc.).
Comment: The idea is wrong that merely
being open toward other groups might be all that is needed to advance
toward multiculturalism. Even if a church has a good attitude toward
people of other cultures, those people probably will never know this
is true, unless there is some intentional, strategic effort to reach
out to them.
REALIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF IMAGE was
important. In church bulletins and newsletters, Pastor King began
referring to Peddie AS "an "international church." Pastor Hatfield
(1974 & following) continued and expanded this practice. For example,
he arranged to get the flags of all nations that are in place for
International Sunday at Pentecost. He also took care to always have
people of different colors and ethnic groups in the pulpit, receiving
the offering, serving at communion, being ushers, etc. Pastor Tingson
(2001 to the present) is continuing to work on this. For him, however
the problem is no longer having an almost all white group front,
but is having an almost all-black group. Although the blacks themselves
are an international group (from Nigeria, Haiti, Ghana, Cameroon,
the USA, etc.) Pastor Tingson is trying to have more Asians and whites
upfront, to keep the image balanced.
Comment: Just as image important, so is
having a multi-ethnic "appearance" in worship leadership. On the
one hand, being "color-blind" is a wonderful ideal. Presumably we
will all be color-blind in Heaven. On the other hand, being "color
blind" in a society or a church that still discriminates based on
color is a refusal or failure to address the situation. As Christians
seeking to reach out to all people, we need to be color conscious
(not color blind) and balance participation in worship conduct among
various races and ethnic groups.
ADDRESSNG ISSUES OF POWER was important.
Mostly it was Pastor Hatfield who began to do this. When he came
as pastor, the congregation had begun to look somewhat "international," but
the various boards and committees were still mostly all white. He
began slowly and gradually to introduce capable leaders from various
national and racial backgrounds into the various boards and committees.
He also personally recruited and trained several dedicated lay-ministers
from varied ethnic backgrounds to undertake various ministries and
take turns in pulpit ministry. This continued to further the image
(as above) of being a multicultural church, and to further its actuality
by having the people of other ethnicities move from merely attending
church to become integral members of the church family. Pastor Tingson
is finding it necessary to work even more on this aspect of power.
As the church's first non-Caucasian pastor, he is finding that a
few members who seldom if ever challenged a white pastor are beginning
to challenge him on some issues. He finds it necessary to work hard,
as many pastors do, to maintain balance between the opinions of some
individuals and the democratically established church practices.
Comment: Although the power issue is one
of the most important of all, it may be the one least addressed.
Many times, the majority group, even though well-meaning, is unaware
of this issue.
FINDING UNITY IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST has
been and is central to Peddie's multicultural family. Many people
have worked on that, including Pastor Hatfield. Peddie member Myrna
Karasig wrote a brief history for the church's 200th anniversary,
in which she said that although other downtown churches are declining
in membership, Peddie has sustained steady membership growth by increasing
its international base. In part she credits Pastor Hatfield for this
by :continuing (Peddie's ) tradition of fine preaching" and for sustaining "the
otherwise fragile relationships between twenty or so nationalities
and ethnicities by allowing diverse cultural expressions yet forging
unity of our Christian spirit."
Comment: The key is love. See I John.
PRAYER was a key to the process. Many
people, including many pastors have earnestly prayed that Peddie
keep on loving and serving people across racial and national boundaries - and
have prayed that the congregation will continue to be drawn together
in harmony and in ministry. Soon after Pastor Tingson first came
to be Peddie's local missionary, he led the church in a significant
movement of prayer renewal. As members came together for prayer,
boundaries faded, commonalities emerged, and Christian caring increased.
As a result, some of the processes and hopes stated above that had
been flagging were renewed, and as the general spiritual and organizational
health of the church improved, so did the multicultural communion.
Comment: Thanks be to God!
A declining church may choose to become multicultural to survive.
Or, a church may choose to become multicultural because it is life
enriching to be in a multicultural fellowship and have friends from
other backgrounds. But the main reason to become multicultural is theological.
Here are a few of many Biblical texts that favor multiculturism.
Here are a few of many books that challenge churches toward multicultural
sensitivity or toward or becoming multicultural.
- Psalm 133:1. The good of dwelling together in unity.
- John 17: especially 11 & 23. Jesus prays that his church may
be one, that the world might believe in him.
- Matthew 28:19-20 The great commission - go to all "nations" (Greek,
ethnai / ethnic groups)
- Acts 2:5-11 lists fifteen ethnic groups present at the Pentecost
event. The very first church gathering was multicultural
- Acts 10:34 After God sends a powerful vision to Peter to correct
his racism and encourage outreach to the Gentiles, Peter proclaims
that he now sees that God is no respecter of persons, or shows
- Galatians 3:28. "Your are all one in Christ Jesus."
- Ephesians. The entire book, the main theme of which is God's
purpose to unite all things in heaven and earth together, the
role of the church in this overarching purpose, and the need
for all Christians to claim their unity in Christ and dwell together
in mutual love.
- Ephesians 4:3-5: Love each other; keep the unity of the Spirit.
One body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
- Revelation 7:9 describes the multinational church at the end
of time gathered before
- God's throne. This shows God's desire for how the church should
be; and since it will ultimately be this way, it's good for us
to work toward that ideal.
- Intentional Diversity. Jim Lo
- Where the Nations Meet: The Church in
a Multicultural World. Stephen A. Rhodes,
- What Color Is Your God? David Ireland.
- Marginality: The Key to Multicultural
Theology. Jung Young Lee.
- The Wolf Shall Dwell With the Lamb: A
Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community.
- One New People: Models for Developing
a Multiethnic Church. Manuel Ortiz.
- Coming Together: The Bible's Message in
an Age of Diversity. Curtiss Paul DeYoung
- United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation
as an Answer to the Problem of Race. Curtiss Paul Deyoung,
Michael Emerson, George Yancey, and Karen Chai Kim.