Bethany Presbyterian’s melting pot

Published on LancasterOnline and in print on June 18.

As Stephanie Lopez, Joyce Lopez and Joselyn Silverio created works of art at the crafts station at Bethany Presbyterian Church’s Vacation Bible School on Tuesday, they enjoyed learning, playing and celebrating their faith.

They weren’t the least bit concerned that many of their classmates belong to different congregations.

The Presbyterian church, at 25 N. West End Ave., hosts three different congregations in one building: Bethany Presbyterian, Oromo (Ethiopian) and the Resurrection Church (Hispanic). The three churches host activities at different times of the day so there is little interaction between them.

That changes when it comes to Vacation Bible School. It is one of several weeks in the year when the three congregations unite for a greater cause.

Bethany Presbyterian and Resurrection children participated this year. With the exception of several children, the Oromo church did not take part.

The theme for VBS was “Surf Shack.” The church’s basement interior was adorned in water-themed decorations, and the lessons primarily dealt with scripture that spoke about water, such as Jesus’ baptism.

The weeklong event also attracted people from different churches. Michael Bright, of Wayside Presbyterian Church in Landisville, volunteered to be one of the coordinators even though Bethany is not his home church.

“(It’s about) doing what comes naturally to Christians,” Bright said. “(The kids are) worshipping the same Jesus I grew up learning about and worshipping.”

People at Bethany Presbyterian have been open and welcoming to the other church attendees, said Betty Duncan, chairwoman of the Christian Education Committee.

“(We) love the diversity, and we love learning of different ways of learning and worshipping,” Duncan said. “God made one big, beautiful world. We should all coexist.”

The youths did not seem to notice the diverse nature of the group as they all sang, danced and played together.

“I think (diversity) is second nature to them,” Duncan said. “We’ve had to get used to each other’s culture and the way we do things.”

The multicultural approach to VBS has been in place for around 10 years, said director Jim Grossman.

“Not every church does what we do,” Grossman said, noting that churchgoers have embraced the different cultures. “If we can reach out to a couple of people, it’s not for nothing.”

Bethany’s VBS ran from Sunday to Thursday, and participants ranged from preschoolers to fifth-graders.

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