Milwaukee: Albright UMC is no stranger to opening its doors to new cultures. After two successful joint Vacation Bible Schools with New Hope Hmong UMC, a congregation that also worships at Albright UMC, the decision was made to join Sunday School for all ages for both congregations. Albright member Lynne Hines-Levy said, “With leaders from both congregations, lessons are being learned, experiences and opinions are being shared, and new bonds are being forged each week. And now that we share a pastor in Pastor Thomas Thao, those bonds are growing stronger.”

But that’s not the only way the church is reaching out to new members. In September, Pastor Thao received a surprise phone call from a stranger in Oshkosh asking to meet to discuss the possibility of a congregation of members of the Da'ai Tribe from the Chin State of Myanmar being allowed to worship at Albright UMC. The Da'ai people are a very small, very tightly knit group of refugees who have only been in this country for a very short time, and all 35 of their members in Wisconsin are a part of this congregation. Less than one week later, the Da'ai Christian Fellowship was able to hold its first service at Albright. The Albright and New Hope Hmong congregations hosted a multi-cultural coffee hour welcome celebration for their entire congregation a week later. At Christmas, the three congregations – Albright, New Hope: Hmong, and the Da’ai Christian Fellowship – celebrated service that blended four cultures (African-American, European-American, Hmong, and Da'ai) and five languages (English, Hmong, Burmese, Spanish, and German.) Click here to see pictures from the Christmas service.

New Hope also hosted Hmong New Year on January 2, and invited Albright, the Da’ai Christian Fellowship, and five other local congregations. Lynn Hines-Levy said, “It was a wonderful celebration with songs and the colorful and joyful noise of Hmong traditional clothing. A feast for the eyes, ears, palate, and the soul. This ‘church of many cultures’ plans to continue to embrace not only our similarities, but all that makes us special as well. We can only do that through time spent together learning from each other. This will keep making every season a season to celebrate.”