The members of St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church had a lot to be thankful for as they celebrated Thanksgiving four days early during their service last Sunday evening.
This year they are celebrating their 30th anniversary. Whereas many immigrant churches have declined or closed by this point in their history, the Thai congregation is thriving. Between 1992, when they moved into the former St. Paul Lutheran Church as renters, and the present, they have not only purchased the building at the corner of Brown and Dixon but have given $931,451 to mission work during that time.
The Thai congregation pulled out all the stops for their celebration. The choirs of True Light Lutheran (a Chinese church) and Hope Tabernacle both offered songs of praise. Woraporn Kanjanawong, the Royal Thai consulate general, greeted the packed house and Acting Chicago Metropolitan Synod Bishop Cynthia Hileman gave the sermon. The highlight of Thanksgiving and Christmas services is the classical Thai dance performed by younger women in the church.
Hymn singing was led by an ensemble comprising violin, sax, bass, guitar, drums and piano with Pastor Golf (Pongtep Chutimapongrat) coming all the way from Shepherd of the Hills Thai Lutheran Ministry in Whittier, California to lead the music. After worship, the members and their guests were treated to a homemade Thai banquet.
The Thai congregation has tried to be a blessing to Forest Park by hosting an AA group and the Hope Tabernacle congregation and by serving a meal at a Housing Forward (formerly PADS) shelter once a month.
What was especially poignant about the service is that this congregation of immigrants from Thailand was worshiping in a church built by German immigrants over a hundred years ago, at a time when in Europe and in this country, receiving “foreigners” was looked on with suspicion by some, instead of as a blessing.