Like many students at SPU, junior and Catalyst Student Ministry Programmer Nathan Samayo values his cultural origins and the ways in which it affects the community that surrounds him.
Samayo, who comes from a Chamorro and Filipino background, explained, “Growing up, I lived in a very diverse community, but was largely influenced by my parents’ way of life, which is being around family all the time through bonding, eating and, honestly, partying.”
Recently, he has noticed that the world is becoming more “lonesome,” and individuals within communities are becoming “separated.”
To address the different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and to celebrate the diverse types of worship that are represented throughout campus, Catalyst hosted their quarterly Multi-Cultural Night of Worship.
Last Tuesday, the SPU community gathered in Nickerson Studios for the Multi-Cultural Night of Worship.
The event featured Minister of Worship and Production Priscilla Ozodo and other musical artists, a scriptural reading in several different languages, spoken word by Christian Paige and more.
The theme of this year’s event was “Together at the Table,” so, it started off with an international bread tasting.
Three types of bread sat at a long table, including pan de sal, a Filipino bread roll; challah, braided Jewish bread; and naan, leavened flatbread common in the Central and South Asian culture.
The idea of serving bread was meant to better instill the theme of “Together at the Table” and to recognize the ways in which breaking of bread is also an international act of worship in Christianity.
The passage of Luke 14:15, which says, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” was referenced throughout the event.
The actual worship began 30 minutes in, where Samayo led the crowd in prayer.
For Samayo, “Together at the Table” would be “full of passion, joy and enthusiasm” and meant as an open space “for people of all backgrounds, cultures and identities to worship and celebrate [God’s] holy name.”
Later, wife-and-husband Ineliz Soto-Fuller, a staff member in the SPU admissions office, and Chris Fuller entered the stage.
Ineliz led the audience in worship with the song “Espiritu de Dios Llena Mi Vida” while Fuller accompanied on the piano.
Soto-Fuller described that the song held personal value to her, because it brought back memories of her Puerto Rican childhood.
“Growing up as a child, we used to sing this at church almost every Sunday. It means a lot to me,” she said.
Sophomore Bennieq Skelton later followed with a reading of Luke 14:12-15 in Samoan. She described that, although “it felt great” to share the verse in her native language, it also intensified her feelings of homesickness, and she missed her family and the ocean the most.
Furthermore, Skelton noticed the language barrier between her and the crowd, because most of the audience did not know Samoan.
“It would’ve been nice to have someone understand what I was reading in my native tongue … without having to look it up in the English version,” Skelton said.
Another display of the Pacific Islands culture was in a performance put on by the SPU Pacific Islander’s Club of Cultural Arts (PICCA).
Singers led the crowd in worship and three of PICCA’s members performed an Islander cultural dance while the band played.
Pierce Salave’a, SPU sophomore and president of PICCA, views the Multi-Cultural Night of Worship as an opportunity to educate the campus about the distinguished differences in Pacific Island cultures.
“When non-Pacific Islanders embrace our culture, it shows that people want to learn about who we are as people,” he said.
Salave’a continued, “Whenever people hear of ‘Pacific Islander,’ many people will assume that that means you’re from Hawaii and are Hawaiian, so when we showcase different Pacific Island cultures, we are educating the community on what makes each culture different from the rest.”
The event closed with worship, led by a band and four singers including sophomore Ephie Siyum and Ozodo.
As a Nigerian who has lived in America for 12 years, Ozodo believes that the Multi-Cultural Night of Worship is important because it “it creates a sense of Christian belonging for minorities who may not feel like they belong anywhere else.”
Ozodo feels that minorities are often “forced to adapt to Western contemporary worship styles,” but the event provides a chance for different groups to “celebrate their identity through worship.”
She explained that “minority styles of worship” are not given a voice.
“It was a privilege to be in a space where we could worship within our cultural context freely, with no questions asked,” Ozodo said.
To conclude the Multi-Cultural Night of Worship, Ozodo reflected her gratitude “to hear [the crowd] worship God together in vocal languages.”
“In some spaces, we’ve been told that’s wrong, but we can bring ourselves here, to God, as we are.”Like many students at SPU, junior and Catalyst Student Ministry Programmer Nathan Samayo values his cultural origins and the ways in which it affects the community that surrounds him.