African worship service promotes unity at Perkins Chapel

Perkins Chapel hosted a Christian worship service highlighting an African style of praising God. This International Eucharist Celebrate event on Thursday brought together Christians of multiple ethnicities.

Kira Calhoun, a junior at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, attended the service as a prospective student checking out the Perkins School of Theology. She found that the event encouraged inclusivity in the SMU community.

“This college has many cultures and everyone can be included in a worship service,” Calhoun said.

The Perkins School of Theology’s four International Scholarship students Francis Kinyua, Robert Selvakumar, Willy Banza and Sungmoon Lee led the program, which included six worships songs and several prayers.

Michael Hawn, director of the Sacred Music Program at Perkins, and a choir of about 25 students and faculty led singing and drum playing. The choir, which consisted of several ethnicities, sung in the African languages of Shona, Ndebele, Lingala and Swahili, as well as English. The audience received handouts with the words for each song and prayer, so they could worship in other languages too.

Several of the songs involved dancing or a handshake, which sparked the energy in the audience as they joined. The audience of about 30 included several prospective Perkins students like Calhoun, who saw the diversity that SMU offers.

“The uniqueness of different cultures coming together was great to see,” Calhoun said. “I found the whole thing interesting.”

Lee, a second-year Perkins student, led the opening call to worship and spoke in his native Korean language for one of the prayers. Even though Lee is not from Africa, he enjoyed sharing the culture of some of his fellow international students.

“This service is a good opportunity to share our experience and give them the opportunity for a taste of the culture,” Lee said.

But most of all, Lee thought the main purpose of the service was to inspire fellow Christians.

“It’s encouragement for people here to have a strong faith and proclaim the Gospel,” Lee said.

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The Perkins international students prepare the elements for communion. Photo credit: Nathan Baldwin

The service also included a sermon from Banza, who is from Congo. He compared the way President Barack Obama sends ambassadors to foreign countries to the way God sends Christians on missions.

“Obama must tell them their purpose before they go. It’s the same way with God,” Banza said.

The program ended with the Christian practice of communion, followed by the audience and choir uniting in a circle for one final song.

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