Cajas at Calvin Symposium on Worship

Edgar Cajas, a Guatemala native and associate professor of church music education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, joined two other Latin American educators in worship to lead the first-ever bilingual seminar at the Calvin Symposium on Worship in Grand Rapids, Mich., Jan. 26-28.

In this bilingual session of the symposium, Cajas and his colleagues, Carlos Colon and Ivette Herryman, highlighted biblical and theological principles of worship, addressing especially the need to pray “psalms of peace in times of violence.”

During the symposium, Cajas also led a separate seminar on worship practices in Hispanic cultures within the United States. Ministers must learn about worship practices in Hispanic cultures due, in large part, to the massive Hispanic population, nearly 50 million people, in the United States. More than 13 million Latinos live in California alone, while more than 8 million live in Texas.

Cajas also warned seminar participants not to stereotype the Latino culture, since Hispanic speakers born in different regions of the world—born, for example, in Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala or the United States—have different customs, dialects and music styles. Moreover, younger Latinos may differ from some older Latinos in their culture and in their fluency in both Spanish and English.

According to Cajas, however, some traits appear in many Hispanic worship services.

“Some Hispanic churches are like a fiesta,” Cajas said, explaining that the worship services are often improvisatory and flexible in structure. They are “sometimes planned but not rehearsed.”

Hispanic churches are often relational, he added, and the theme of pilgrimage is also common. Cajas explained that some Hispanics are migrant workers, moving throughout a region or throughout the nation to find work. Others are refugees. Such situations encourage church members to recall that heaven, and not the United States, is their final destination.

The worship symposium was sponsored by The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and the Center for Excellence in Preaching.

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