‘Discover Beauty in Everyone’
Rob Jones, pastor of Holy Trinity Rathmines Church in Dublin, Ireland, warmly greeted people who were watching the live worship service at his church as part of the Online Calvin Symposium on Worship Program 2021.
Running through Tuesday, Jan. 26, the symposium, which normally takes place in Grand Rapids, Mich., has had to go online this year because of COVID-19 restrictions limiting large gatherings.
But in the process the symposium has had a chance to bring viewers to a wide range of places.
This year the symposium is offering worship services from churches and chapels across North America and from around the world. One of these was the service held in Dublin on Friday, Jan. 8, at 3 p.m. EST. Like other services and speaker presentations, the one from Ireland is archived for viewing. In addition, parts of the services feature prerecorded presentations.
Speaking from the pulpit in the Holy Trinity Rathmines sanctuary, Rob Jones noted that their church building was constructed in 1827 and is now a Church of Ireland parish. “We are a church that loves to merge the old and the new,” he said. “We have a heart for our city, and we value diversity.”
Providing a close-up opportunity to watch how other people worship, the service opened with a church member reading from Psalm 107:1-2: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story — those he redeemed from the hand of the foe. . . .”
Next, the church’s internationally renowned Discovery Gospel Choir sang a traditional song from the Republic of Congo called “O Nzambi.”The song begins with these words, sung first in Congolese, “Ye Kiwidi Ba Sambo Ko,” followed by “Oh, Lord, I couldn’t hear nobody pray.”
The choir sang powerfully, clapping their hands and swaying. As the camera panned from singer to singer, it was clear that this multiracial choir reflects the many nations now represented in Dublin. The choir’s members include 14 different nationalities and sing in 30 languages.
After the song came a prayer, a time of silence, a word announcing the assurance and forgiveness of Christ, another prayer, and a reading from Romans 12:17-19 in The Message:
“Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’”
Philip McKinley, a pastor who is an activist for causes of equity and diversity across Ireland and the coordinator of the gospel choir, delivered the sermon, titled “Discover Beauty in Everyone.”
“Our choir has this message — ‘Discover beauty in everyone’ — on our T-shirts,” said McKinley, showing off his own T-shirt with the message on it.
“We believe it is important to discover beauty in everyone. We wear it as a garment of praise when we stand in the presence of the people we sing to.”
Wearing their T-shirts, the choir travels across Ireland, Europe, and beyond to perform. The group has sung at the White House and before the pope. They also wear their T-shirts when they are out in different places, said McKinley:
“We wear them when we play football, when we are in airports, when we’ve been in refugee camps, when we are cleaning up streets after protests.”
While wearing their T-shirts, he added, the choir often meets people who can’t believe they are Christians. “They can’t believe this inclusive statement is in the Bible. But it has been lived out in many ways by Christians over the centuries.”
An example of this is seen in how many Christians joined antiracism protests in many countries in 2020, McKinley said.
“These protests gave the world an opportunity to confront racism and unleashed a large Christian response to racism. I think 2020 was such a radical year in which we saw new possibilities for planet earth.
“It was a Kairos moment. God is waiting for our Christian response to break racism inside and outside the church. Paul tells us to be cheerfully expectant for a time of transformation.”
The service wound down with prayers from the Haven Community, a ministry connected to Holy Trinity Rathmines Church.
Sitting around a table in what looked like a dining room of a home, with a candle flickering in front of them, a few women shared prayers. Then a woman in another room of the home finished off by praying: “Lord, protect our hearts, souls, and bodies so that people know who is their Father, who is present and never leaves. Always surround people, Father, with your presence and peace.
“I pray every Christian will follow you and never lose the flame burning inside their hearts. . . . May we never lose the courage, Father, to speak your gospel and to speak the truth, no matter the circumstances. . . . Be our morning star, our Prince of peace. May we know who you are, and because of that we can know who we are.”
Symposium presenters are speaking from their home locations, mostly across North America, while worship services are being broadcast live from communities such as Waco, Texas; Pasadena, Calif.; Clarkston, Ga.; Princeton, N.J.; and Grand Rapids, Mich — and also from Cairo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beirut, Brazil, and Dublin.
In worship at 8 p.m. EST on Wed., Jan. 13, the Anabas Ministry in Hong Kong will offer a service based on Romans 8. Next Tues., Jan. 19, a live service from Beirut will be presented at 11a.m. EST, and another service will be presented by the Singapore Bible College at 8 p.m. that evening.