Safwat Marzouk, PhD ’12, grew up in a village in Upper Egypt, where the Presbyterian Church played a significant role in his personal life and faith formation. He and his family were active in the church, through ministries and programs. And, he was given the opportunity, even as an adolescent, to be a leader; he led meditations and song, and even preached.
So it was no surprise when, as an adult, he felt the call to attend seminary, first in Cairo and then at Princeton Theological Seminary. But something consistently pulled at his heart and mind, especially as an immigrant living in America: “Most biblical texts were written by people on the move, people who were exiled, people who lived in diaspora, or those for whom the memory of sojourn is formative to their collective identity,” he says. “I realized that we are missing something as readers who read the Bible from a settled perspective.”
What if we read the Bible through the eyes of migrants? What would happen if churches embraced cultural differences as a divine gift? And, what if, instead of segregating along cultural lines, churches truly integrated people who are culturally or ethnically different?
Marzouk’s new book, Intercultural Church: A Biblical Vision for an Age of Migration, addresses these questions and more. It moves beyond the model of assimilation to seek a new model rooted in the Bible, in which church members who come from different ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds can worship and witness together. It builds on the concept of welcoming the stranger to support a vision that integrates the migrant into the church and society. Plus, it offers insights into reading the Bible with and as migrants, worship in an intercultural church, food and fellowship across boundaries, and more.
Ultimately, Marzouk hopes readers come away with a vision for the church as a diverse place for hospitality and healing — a much-needed respite in current times. “Readers will not find a specific model for how to be an intercultural church; each community should develop a model that suites its context,” he says. “What they will discover are words of wisdom rooted in the biblical story about how to be a church that offers healing and justice in a world hurting from injustice, oppression, and hatred.”