Celebrating Diversity, Worshipping in Unity

by Bethany Wagner '14

Uplifting gospel pieces and classic hymns, rhythmic dancing and powerful poetry, moments of contemplative silence and loud shouts of praise. The 22nd annual Gospel Sing event, held February 16 and sponsored by the Office of Multi-Ethnic Programs (MEP) gave the audience all that and more. The evening drew top gospel groups, along with faculty, staff, students, and off-campus guests for worship centered around this year’s theme “Sounds of Unity” and Psalm 133:1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”

Gospel Sing 2013 featured renowned outside ensembles Lorenzo Johnson & PRAIZUM, Celestial Voices Chorale, and Family Life Center Sanctuary Choir as well as APU groups UMOJA Step Team, the Poetry Slam Team, the Gospel Choir, and the Gospel Worship Team. Performances brought the audience to their feet, clapping, singing, and dancing along.

“This immersion event invited those in attendance to experience a culture not indigenous to APU through an international language we can all understand: music,” said Edgar Barron, executive director of MEP. “Gospel music is loved by many, so it draws people from different walks of life to worship together in community. This depth and breadth of expression makes Gospel Sing a rare occurrence unlike any other event at APU.”

Originally a small cultural gathering, Gospel Sing continues to expand, drawing more than 2,000 this year. “Already one of the most anticipated events at APU, Gospel Sing is becoming a spring distinction in the greater Los Angeles community,” said Barron. “We hope to see it become the signature gospel music event in Southern California.”

In addition to Gospel Sing, MEP sponsors events throughout the year geared toward its mission of cultivating a community at APU that embraces ethnic diversity and a spirit of unity in Christ. MEP partners with the Latin American Student Association (LASA), the Asian Pacific American Student Organization (APASO), and the Black Student Association (BSA) in hosting annual coffeehouse evenings, student gatherings that showcase different cultures through music, dance, and ethnic food.

On March 11–15, MEP partnered with Student Life to host Acts 2 Week, an annual campus-wide week generating awareness of diversity on campus and encouraging the unity exemplified by the early Christian Church in Acts. “Our student body benefited from a variety of transformative opportunities to broaden their perspectives about God-honoring diversity,” said Barron. “From intense dialogue to challenging interactive activities to engaging fellowship, Acts 2 week was a time for students to learn, grow, and connect with one another.”

This year’s Acts 2 Week reached students through chapel addresses and workshops covering topics including racial identity, gender issues, and social justice. A Mosaic Jubilee held on Cougar Walk provided students with a fun opportunity to enjoy food and music representing different cultures. Acts 2 culminated in a chapel service celebrating reconciliation and inviting students to join together in receiving communion.

In addition to hosting events, MEP provides year-round support to ethnic minority students and trains student leaders to foster communication and understanding among people of all racial, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. “We all have God-created differences,” said Barron. “By raising awareness of this rich diversity, we can enter into deeper relationships with God and one another.”