Mary Adamski

View from the Pew
A look inside Hawaii's houses of worship

By Mary Adamski

Saturday, May 12, 2001

Church of Crossroads
tackles weighty issues

WHEN THE ONLY reference to the Asian Development Bank and globalization issues to be found in the church ads and bulletins was connected to the Church of the Crossroads, it was not a surprise.

The Makiki church just downhill from the University of Hawaii has been a center of activism in social and political issues for half a century.

Opponents of the Vietnam War launched demonstrations from there. It was the first United Church of Christ congregation to embrace the "open and affirming" designation, which signals that homosexuals are welcome.

The concern of today's activists that the plight of the poor is not being addressed by international financial institutions such as ADB was reflected in prayer, song and sermon Sunday.


Message: There's no doubt what it is, from the first jointly recited call to worship affirming "We come to stand alongside the poor, we come to resist all that offends God's justice" to the final benediction "May the God who sustains the poor, who shakes the rich out of their complacency, bless us with the power to go forth and bring justice and well-being to the oppressed."

Participation: Yes, when it's seriously speaking an affirmation; No, when it comes to swinging and clapping with the choir's eclectic rhythms.

Welcome: The time to roam and hug is set to music early in the service, clearly a popular feature.

"Because we have seen pain without being moved, because we pass by happy before poverty and injustice, God have mercy on us," was the prayer of confession recited by the crowd of 120.

"For celebrating Earth Day without honoring the Earth, for wanting peace but refusing to live in solidarity... have mercy and forgive our failures."

In the hymn "O For a World," they sang of a place "where goods are shared and misery relieved -- a world where everyone respects each other's views."

The sermon, titled "Global Citizenship in Christ," was delivered by the Rev. Renate Rose, a Crossroads member and guest preacher who was booked to speak at the anti-ADB rally in Kapiolani Park. The Berlin-born scholar formerly taught at the Union Theological seminary in the Philippines and was active with the Coalition of Churches for Human Rights in that country.

Her text drew from the day's reading from the Book of Revelation, comparing its historical context, a time when the Roman Caesar was worshipped as a god and Christians persecuted, with modern times.

"The emperor today is the 'free market' of finance and goods," said Rose. "For the churches the answer should be clear: We must side with the suffering multitude. We cannot be intimidated by the devastating power and speed by which foreign capital sweeps in and out of a country, undeterred by a nation's history or culture. "In a prophetic voice and action we must proclaim the truth about the projects the Bank finances which impact on the poor and indigenous communities by dislocations and deprivations. If we just sit back and endorse the status quo, and thereby worship the ideology of capitalist globalization with all its dire consequences."

African and Caribbean drum rhythms, verses sung in a variety of languages are part of the regular musical menu at the church, which has a well-rehearsed and showcased choir providing its strong base for congregational expression.

The "New Century Hymnal" found in the chairs -- not pews -- has been rejected in some less liberal venues because of its inclusive language. Associate pastor Judy Rantala described it as reflecting "diversity of all people of God and diversity within God." So, a familiar reference to the God of Abraham is now God of Abraham and Sarah.

And the traditional masculine pronoun for God is avoided as this version of the Doxology: "Praise God the source of life and birth. Praise God the Word who came to Earth. Praise God the Spirit, Holy Flame. All honor, glory, to God's name."

Mary Adamski covers religion for the Star-Bulletin.
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