Worshiping Together: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
During May we celebrate the many gifts of the people of Asian and Pacific Island heritage. Consider your worship themes, your context, and engage several members of your congregation in discerning how you can celebrate with God’s people the richness of these cultures.
As you develop your worship each week consider including visuals, literature, prayers, missions and music from the Asian and Pacific Island communities as part of your options for inclusion in worship.
- As a part of your sermon preparation, take time to learn about the rich Asian Pacific Island heritage. (See “Background below.”) Include some of the amazing stories found on these sites in your sermon as fits your theme and focus. Dig deeper as needed to find quotes from these cultures that enhance your sermon.
- Ask a person of Asian or Pacific Island heritage in your church/community to come and share their faith journeys with your congregation. Explore what Asian or Pacific Islander artists are in your neighborhood/community. Could they possibly come and share their art form in worship or at another time in the life of your congregation?
- Explore the missionary page on the Global Ministries website and include the missionaries of Asian and Pacific Island heritage as well those who serve as missionaries in this geographic area in your morning prayer. Plan ahead to be in communication with one of them whose ministry connects to the ministry of your church community. Could they write a prayer to be used in worship? Could they record a short video about their ministry that you could share with your congregation? Can they be Skyped into worship to read the scripture for the day?
Global Praise, a program of Global Ministries, offers several resources on global song. The resources listed below, For Everyone Born: Global Songs for an Emerging Church, Global Praise 3, Put Your Arms Around the World: Global Songs and Activities for Children, and all Global Praise resources are available from www.shop.umc.globalpraise/329
- CAMBODIA - “Au prea v obey/ Our Father, Who Is in Heaven” (For Everyone Born, #11) is a setting of the Lord’s Prayer by Cambodian composer Barnabas Mam. While originally composed to be accompanied by flute, the addition of a light accompaniment of guitar, piano, will support congregational singing. Consider introducing the prayer to your congregation in a variety of ways. A soloist could sing the prayer or a song leader could line it out phrase by phrase. The doubling of the melody by a flute or an organ flute stop would be very helpful to the congregation when teaching the melody line. You could also simply share with the congregation that the first, second and last melodic phrases are the same. Ask them to learn that phrase with you. All they will need to learn is the third phrase and they will be able to sing the prayer with the help of a song leader, flute and light accompaniment. Consider adding small finger cymbals or bells at the end of each phrase as it is held for variety in accompaniment sound. Children will learn this prayer quickly; what a great way to help them learn the Lord’s Prayer!
- CHINA - #42 in Global Praise 3 is an "Alleuia" set to a Chinese folk melody. This could be lined out by a song leader in a call-and-response pattern as a response to prayers for the people, community and world. You can also sing together an “amen” based on a Chinese folk melody. Found in Global Praise 3, # 42, this short "Amen" could be used in a variety of ways in worship. Does your church have a time in worship when the congregation greets each other? Invite them to greet those around them and then call the congregation back to order by singing the "Amen" together several times. One way to teach the song is to ask the choir or songleader to line out the first three measures for the congregation, inviting the congregation to repeat the phrase with them. Lead the next three measures in the same manner. In worship, consider introducing the melody by playing the top line of the music score on a flute, recorder or other C instrument. As your congregation becomes comfortable with the melody, the choir/praise team could sing the second vocal part, however you will want to reinforce the upper melody with the help of a songleader or instrument.
- JAPAN - “Don’na tokidemo,” (Put Your Arms Around the World: Global Songs and Activities for Children, #16) a song from the pens of Junko Takahashi and Schin’ichi Takanami, shares their deep belief that God is omnipresent using words that anyone can understand. Consider singing this song as a part of your prayer time in worship. Sing stanza one prior to the prayer. Close the prayer time by singing stanza two. Use a simple accompaniment, perhaps just guitar. If available, add a flute or recorder on the melody to support the singing. The first phrase incorporates the same text for both stanzas. You could choose to have the congregation sing this one phrase with a soloist or the choir singing the remaining lines of the stanza. Transpose as needed to best fit the singing range of your congregation. If used as a part of an intercessory prayer time, set up the pattern by asking the leader to say, “The Lord is with us.” Followed by the congregation saying, “Anytime and anywhere know that Jesus’ love is there.”
- PHILIPPINES - The song “Hindi ko maisip / Far beyond our mind’s grasp” (Global Praise 3, #50/51) is a lovely communion song from the Philippines. Stanzas one, two and three could be sung prior to the distribution of the elements as a part of the invitation. You will want to sing stanza four to complete the hymn after everyone has been served. While the congregation may want to sing the entire hymn, a choir or a soloist could also sing the stanzas of the hymn. Another way to engage the congregation is to teach the last four measures of each stanza to the congregation prior to the service. Invite them to join in the singing of those four measures as directed by the soloist/songleader. It may be that after hearing the first three stanzas the congregation will want to sing stanza four with the choir/soloist. Churches with presentation capabilities could add a slide/video presentation involving pictures of a variety of breads, grapes and pictures of “feast” tables from around the world. Consider adding pictures of ministries of service that your church is engaged in as a part of showing how your “lives are altars glowing” with God’s spirit in stanza four. Another option to consider is to ask your dance ministry to "dance in" the elements as you sing the first three stanzas.
The Faith We Sing (Abingdon Press) and The United Methodist Hymnal include several songs to consider for use. There are several editions available for each of these resources available from www.Cokesbury.com
- CHINA: UMH 633, "The Bread of Life for All Is Broken;” UMH 678, "Rise to Greet the Sun;” UMH 564, Prayer for the Unity of Christ's Body; UMH 792, Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; musical response, TFWS 2061, "Praise Our God Above" ("Harvest Song")
- HAWAII: TFWS 2198, "Stay with Me" (Noho Pu)
- HINDI: UMH 478, "Jaya Ho" ("Victory Hymn")
- JAPAN: TFWS 2110, "Why Has God Forsaken Me?"; UMH 552, "Here, O Lord, Your Servants Gather"
- KOREA: UMH 343, "Come Back Quickly to the Lord;" UMH 476, “Lonely the Boat, Sailing at Sea;” UMH 884, A Statement of Faith of the Korean Methodist Church; TFWS 2232, "Come Now, O Prince of Peace" ("O-So-So")
- LAOS: UMH 350, "Come, All of You"
- PHILIPPINES: UMH 411, "Dear Lord, Lead Me Day by Day"
- SOUTHERN ASIA: UMH 523, "Saranam, Saranam"
- TAIWAN: UMH 151, "God Created Heaven and Earth;" UMH 615, "For the Bread Which You Have Broken"
- THAILAND: UMH 350, "Come, All of You"
- VIETNAM: UMH 498, "My Prayer Rises to Heaven"
Ask a musician of Asian or Pacific Island heritage to come and share their gift with you in worship. Ask them to help you discern the ways you can incorporate traditional instruments from these cultures in your worship.
Other Worship Resources
- Ua Tsaug Rua Yexus Rooj Mov (The Great Thanksgiving in Hmong)
- The General Board of Discipleship, Worship Division, has prepared several resources.
- From The United Methodist Book of Worship: No. 178, "Amen, Praise the Father;" No. 180, "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow;" No. 186, "An Indian Blessing;" No. 412, Prayer for Trinity Sunday: Church of South India, 20th century; No. 471, Act of Congregational Centering: National Convocation of Asian American Churches.
Explore: Background information on Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Use these websites to help you in preparing for your sermons, for notes in your worship bulletin or projection, and for resources for student ministries.
- Scholastic’s Teacher Site: Find out what it means to be Asian Pacific American and about all the Asian cultures that exist in the world and in America. Note the link to “Asian Pacific Americans who have made a difference” and several craft ideas including a calligraphy mini-book.
- Asian Pacific Heritage government websites: The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success. You will find many informational articles as well as teacher resources that can be adapted for use with your congregation.
- Consider using artwork from these heritages on your bulletin, websites, in your projection in worship and church communication tools. Do an Internet search on your worship theme with the culture you want to highlight added after the theme keyword. Always remember to ask for permission to use the images and include the name of the artist/photographer as a part of the credits in your bulletin or website. Ask photographers in your community from these heritages if they have photos that will match your worship theme. Consider engaging them in creating new photo/images based on your theme.
- Consider having a specific tea or food from a different country from these heritages as a part of your hospitality “tea and coffee” time each week. Include a sign with the background information about the tea/food.
- Ask congregation members to bring in any cloths from Asia or the Pacific Islands they have. Arranged them on the main table as your visual or create a visual in your gathering space with the cloths.
- Engage an Asian or Pacific Island artist in creating a work of art in your gathering space over several weeks during the times your congregation is there so they can be engaged with the artist and in the act of creating the artwork. There may be a church-wide project the artist can engage your congregation in creating together over several weeks during May.
- Discover Pinterest as a place to get your ideas for crafts and visuals. Go to Pinterest and search on Asian Culture or Pacific Island culture. As you explore the many options, consider how they can be adapted for use as a visual, a craft, or even a church-wide activity.
by the Rev. Debra Tyree, who serves with Global Praise, a program of the General Board of Global Ministries.