Jesus Christ Worship Center, a non-denominational Haitian church in Indianapolis, inaugurated its new space on the eighth anniversary of its founding.
INDIANAPOLIS—After worshiping in a modest locale for nearly eight years, the congregation of Jesus Christ Worship Center, a non-denominational Haitian church, moved to Guion Creek Middle School last month as its membership surpassed 400. On that inaugural Sunday, the faithful streamed into their new rental space on the city’s West Side, radiant in their crisp Sunday Best, colorful garments and accessories and joyful smiles.
With hymns on their lips, the throngs danced and moved to praise music, recited verses and received the gospel over a 3-hour service in the new space, which can hold up to 800 people. Psalmist Samuel Robuste, a well-known evangelical Christian among Haitians, even flew in from Jacksonville, Fla. for a fundraising praise night.
Roseline Julien, a mother-of-four, brought the whole family to service. During the rousing praise worship, Julien spent most of the worship on her feet, dancing and singing.
“This brings me back to Haiti, just like the old days when we worshipped with my parents,” said Julien.
Founded in 2015, the congregation moved to a larger rented auditorium in June and held off on the inauguration to coincide with its anniversary on Sept. 10. The church’s membership, from 100 to 450 members, reflects the growth of the Haitian community in the city. That population now stands between an estimated 2,500 to 10,000 people, according to the Census Bureau and third-party data, respectively.
But with the growth comes challenges. Whether the larger sanctuary comes with more means to help the nascent community not only with its spiritual needs, but its material necessities remains to be seen.
Pastor Lucame Charles, a founding member, said many Haitians here are struggling financially and there is a shortage of professionals to help sustain the community. A package delivery driver, Charles said during an interview at his home after a shift one late morning, that people send much of their earnings, meager as they might be, back to families in Haiti. This means churches do not have enough from congregants’ contributions to help locals who need support with language, cultural assimilation and financial problems. Plus, he added, when some Haitians arrive, they follow their own ways instead of learning their new home’s system. Division due to different religious beliefs also creates friction.
“It rains for everyone regardless of your belief, whether you are a Vodou believer or Christian,” Charles said. “Despite all our differences in our beliefs, we are people first.
“When immigration is taking people to deport them, they don’t ask if you are a Christian or a Vodouist,” he added. “We are all in the same basket. We must stop destroying each other as Haitians.”
In the future, the church hopes to build a mega-church that can hold up to 1,500 members, enough room to fit the Haitian population expected to grow in Indianapolis. For now, Jesus Worship Center has Sunday service from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and prayer services on Wednesday and Friday evenings. It also has daily service hours where people can come and share problems they face in the community.
On that inaugural Sunday, however, just like every Sunday, Charles and his fellow faithful gathered, and sent it all up to God.
This story is part of a series looking at the movement of Haitians and Haitian Americans across the United States. It is made possible through the support of the Ford Foundation.