Less than a decade ago, St. Regis Catholic Church in Oakland, Penn., had just eight children in its Sunday religious education classes. Now, there are 125.
The once predominantly Irish and Italian parish reinvented itself by holding a mix of English and Spanish Masses. It will celebrate them today -- Ash Wednesday -- and throughout Lent.
Members come from as far away as Brookline and Cranberry, and coming Friday Lenten fish fries are as likely to offer Mexican or Peruvian seafood dishes as traditional fried fish sandwiches, said the Rev. Daniele Vallecorsa, the church's pastor.
"We now have a mix of two traditions. This brings a vibrancy and new life to the parish," he said.
St. Regis is one example of the changing face of Christianity. It is evident in Pittsburgh, where -- in addition to Spanish-language Masses -- Catholic Masses are held in Korean and Vietnamese. The Pittsburgh area also is home to Korean Presbyterian, Methodist, Assemblies of God and nondenominational congregations.
Christianity's explosive and recent growth in Asia and Africa includes some surprising statistics. There are more Lutherans in Nigeria than in Germany and more Presbyterians in Korea than in the United States.
"This is the new face of Christianity, and it's not white. One of the most amazing things is that most people in the West do not seem to get this change at all," said Scott Sunquist, a professor of world theology at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
In 1910, about two-thirds of the world's Christians lived in Europe. Today, Europe is home to only about a quarter of the world's Christians. About 13 percent live in the United States, according to a recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Such demographic shifts are on display every Sunday at places of worship such as the Korean Central Church of Pittsburgh in Shadyside.
"We have a Korean Service and an English service. We have rented a space ... for a third service because of overcrowding," said the Rev. Won Yuang Rhee, one of three pastors at the church.
Churches such as Korean Central are places where immigrants could speak their own language and make friends. Yet many such churches expect to eventually diversify their membership, said the Rev. Sung Lee, pastor of the Korean United Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh in Ross, an older church.
"We do not want to be bound by our Korean heritage, to dwell on it too much. We want to be a multicultural church," he said.
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