Upland Peace Church

Upland Peace Church

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Upland Peace Church in Upland, California, is an internally culturally diverse Mennonite congregation, with participants speaking English, Spanish, Chinese, and Indonesian. Pastor Nemi Chigoji (the only member who is from Nigeria) said that sometimes church music includes traditional Indonesian instruments such as anklung.

On the Easter Sunday I visited in April 2018, this was not the case, because many Indonesian members were away visiting family. On that day, the band included singers, keyboard, guitar, bass, saxophone, and drums. They led a variety of songs from traditional hymns to widely popular contemporary worship music, including English songs “Rez Power” by Israel & New Breed and “My Redeemer Lives” by Hillsong.

The congregation sang in several languages, including some bilingual songs with verses in English followed by Indonesian or Spanish. For example, in “This Is Amazing Grace” by Phil Wickham, a chorus in English preceded a verse and chorus in Spanish:



This Is Amazing Grace by Phil Wickham
 
CHORUS
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

 
 
VERSE
Pusiste en orden todo el caos
Nos adoptaste como tus hijos
El rey de gloria el rey de majestad
El que gobierna con su justicia
Y resplandece con su belleza
El rey de gloria el rey de majestad

 
 
CHORUS
Gracia sublime es,
Perfecto es tu amor
Tomaste mi lugar
Cargaste tu mi cruz
Tu vida diste ahí
Y ahora libre soy Jesús te adoro
Por lo que hiciste en mí



Immediately following, the congregation sang the early 20th-century gospel song The Old Rugged Cross in English.

While most singing was congregational and led by the band, one separate group sang a song in Mandarin. The seven vocalists, including one young child, used choreographed movements as the guitar accompanied them. The tune was nearly pentatonic and harmonized entirely with minor chords, which gives the song a modal but also Western sound.

Several times during the service, the keyboardist played while Pastor Nemi spoke or prayed. This is a contrast to many traditional European-North American Mennonite services that contain more discrete acts of worship (a song followed by a prayer, rather than overlapping song and prayer), but layering music over spoken word is also common across Christian denominations. In this recording, the keyboard music allows the prayer to move seamlessly into a song. The musicians in this congregation hold together many languages, musical styles, and cultural approaches to religious life.

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