February 2, 2021

​Cross-cultural Encounters

When people are seen as people, perspective changes

Simret Mahary

PRESENCE kulturlounge is a cultural center located in the metropolitan city of Frankfurt, Germany, supported by the local conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and run by a team of individuals who come from various cultural and religious backgrounds.

The center has offered various regular cultural activities, such as concerts, art exhibitions, poetry nights, cooking experiences, topical reflections, etc., in a warm and cozy atmosphere since it was founded in 2014.

Cross-cultural Encounters

The essence of the cultural center is found in three core areas: First, offering cultural activities that create room for inspiration, reflection, and positive encounters. Second, opening up space for personal expression and artistic development. And third, engaging in appreciative, mutual relationships, which make room for personal, communal, and spiritual growth.

From a spiritual perspective, PRESENCE is about sharing from the fullness of God’s gifts as being reflectors of His image in this world. God’s blessings and realm of action for human beings are broad and manifold. They are expressed in the reality of living and engaging with the world in many ways, including culture. At the kulturlounge, we create room for individuals by saying, “Come and share.” Share your art, your music, your poetry, your cuisine, your talent, your thoughts with us. And together we exercise the joy of giving by receiving. By letting what others share resonate with us, we are not only enriched ourselves, but also help the givers share in the rewarding experience of being a blessing to others. That, in return, creates a safe space for all to share, flourish, and grow.

The communal experience of culture is not an end in itself, but can also be experienced as an impetus for further conversations, acquaintances, and friendships, in which life stories and spiritual journeys are shared.

As that happens, testimonies are given, burdens are shared, and trust is established. The other becomes part of our own journey and vice versa. Thus, while life takes us to places both high and low, we share them with each other. We let the “other” participate in our journey and capture a real-life sense of what our relationship with God looks like. We make ourselves vulnerable. And to the extent to which our journey is truthfully grounded in life, the other gains space to relate to our experiences and be inspired, as we grow together in our paths.

Who Is the “Other”?

The other is any individual to whom we can relate and whose story and identity unfolds in the course of an encounter, a conversation, and time spent together. It’s not the label that comes first—nationality, skin color, religion, etc., with all the notions that go with such labels. Rather, the person stands at the center, with his or her unique identity and story, which unfolds, just like ours, in the sacred space of relationship.

Instead of “othering” the counterpart with preconceived or apparently perceived differences, he or she is perceived as one of us, with common needs for affection, dignity, safety, and a sense of peace and acceptance. We are the other, and the other is us, though we may appear different at first sight. We are all trying to make sense of things and make a contribution in our respective journeys. And since our paths have crossed, we can engage with one another and see where it leads us, as we discover each other, listen, overcome barriers of communication, learn from one another, and respect our differences. While that happens, the Spirit works among us, if we are open, to teach us all what we need to learn and help us grow as we should.

All of this becomes difficult, if not impossible, if cultural, racial, religious, and other labels are disproportionally highlighted in our human encounters and conversations. All the more so if these notions grow from a distance and are fed by preconceived ideas and prejudices, without the reality check of encountering and engaging with each other firsthand and openly.

Cross-cultural encounters are first and foremost interhuman encounters. When we start from there, we can see everything else in better perspective with a spirit of humility and acknowledgment that we are all formed by what made us who we are today. When that is recognized, growth and wholesome change become possible.

Like Coming Home

I feel blessed that we have been able to experience some of that at PRESENCE kulturlounge. Here are some testimonies by our friends, who come from various backgrounds, and have become part of our journey:

“For me, the PRESENCE lounge is first and foremost a place to meet people. Through the lounge I have met new friends that I would not want to do without today” (S.A.).

“For me, the kulturlounge is a wonderful place to be surprised by new things every time [and] to go home enriched with good and positive energy, and a lot of input” (S.M.).

“It is a place of warmth, inspiration, love, belonging, and creativity” (S.A.).

“PRESENCE is the place that supported and encouraged me in my artistic creation” (H.K.).

“It is like ‘coming home’” (P.A.).

What a blessing when our churches, institutions, and various centers of influence around the world are experienced as such spaces. Places where we come, share, and feel like coming home.


Simret Mahary is pastor and founder of PRESENCE kulturlounge in Frankfurt, Germany. You can visit them at presence-kulturlounge.de.

Simret Mahary
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