This story was revised May 21 to reflect the correct allocation of $80,000 in the Diocese of Nevada.
Four years after adopting a strategic vision for reaching Latinos and Hispanics, the Episcopal Church has more congregational resources and more settings where Episcopalians praise God in Spanish.
That’s according to the Rev. Canon Anthony Guillén, the church’s Los Angeles-based missioner for Latino/Hispanic ministries. Though the church has not reached all of its goals because of limited funding, he says, it has laid important groundwork for building on recent progress.
Since 2009, the Episcopal Church has established 23 new Latino congregations in states where Latino populations have grown fastest in recent years. That falls short of the 44 envisioned in the 2009 plan, but efforts were limited to what was possible with $300,000 appropriated from General Convention to implement the strategic plan, he said.
Latino congregations tend to have many bilingual members who prefer to worship in Spanish, Guillén says. They cater largely to second-, third-, and fourth-generation immigrants, who were routinely overlooked in earlier outreach efforts, he says.
“There’s been a big move from the old model of standalone Latino ministries,” Guillén says. “We’re not planting new congregations that are strictly Spanish-speaking. Rather, we are doing mostly what I would call revitalizing smaller congregations, where the numbers have dwindled down and community profiles have changed demographically.”
In a number of dioceses, long-established congregations have recently created Latino/Hispanic ministries, meaning they offer at least one service in Spanish. The Diocese of Southwest Florida, for instance, has at least five such ministries, up from just one or two before 2009. The Diocese of Nevada had just one such ministry before 2009; now it has six.
Other goals remain unmet. The strategic vision called for a new program to train clergy and laity to increase Latino/Hispanic participation to 15 percent in 100 congregations. That has not happened because of limited funds, Guillén says.
Since 2009, the Episcopal Church has given $80,000 to the Diocese of Nevada to develop Hispanic/Latino ministries at two Las Vegas congregations. The documentary Latino Hispanic Ministry: Transforming the Church in Nevada shows how the congregations have engaged people of Hispanic backgrounds and how their efforts have borne fruit. Nearly 1,000 copies of the video were distributed at General Convention 2012, and it is commonly used in seminary classes, Guillén says.
Other efforts have made the Episcopal Church more accessible to Spanish speakers, he adds. The denomination’s website is now bilingual, for instance, as are podcasts distributed through Episcopal Web Radio.
“The way we’ve done ministry in the past hasn’t really worked,” Guillén says. “But if we focus on second-, third,- and fourth-generation Latino/Hispanics … we will be more effective in reaching Latinos and in growth.”
G. Jeffrey MacDonald
A report to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA. Commissioned by the Rev. Anthony Guillén, Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries of the Episcopal Church USA. Produced and directed by James Ault, James Ault Productions, Northampton, Massachusetts. www.jamesault.com