By Jessica Brodie
AIKEN—Churches seeking new ties with their Latino neighbors spent two days recently creating a concrete outreach-focused action plan.
Church teams gathered at St. John’s United Methodist Church, Aiken, Feb. 19-20 for Pentecost Journey, a training event presented by the South Carolina Conference’s Hispanic Latino Task Force.
Speaker the Rev. Jose Luis Villaseñor, of Fiesta Cristiana in Apex, North Carolina, a new church start/mission for the UMC, helped the churches envision and then craft long- and short-term goals for Hispanic/Latino ministry. Worship leader was Ernesto Barriguete from Juntos, a new multicultural UMC ministry in Greenville, North Carolina.
The Rev. Elizabeth Murray, conference Hispanic ministries coordinator, said the goal was to give people tools for practical next steps in their individual churches, and she thinks the event went “really, really well.”
“It was probably everything I could have imagined for a first-time event, and I can see how we can do it even better next time and be more strategic about inviting teams,” Murray said, noting people seemed very open to new paths for ministry, and Villaseñor did a great job in creating a spiritual experience and a sacred space for learning. “So many times, people come to workshops to learn about a subject, but a lot of times they can’t get to the ‘what’s next’ stage, and this was all about the figuring out what’s next for Hispanic ministry and giving you concrete plans to take back to your church to implement.”
At the start of the event, participants stood in a circle, and each chose a verb representing where they were in their Pentecost Journey regarding Hispanic/Latino ministry, such as “understand,” “act” or “listen.” This helped facilitators understand where participants were and allowed them to gauge their progress.
By the end of the event, the participants had developed their personalized takeaway: what they will go back and do realistically in their local church in the next six months. For instance, one church, Berea Friendship UMC, Greenville, is exploring creation of a youth group. Another, St. John’s, is planning to better engage its English as a Second Language students in the life of the church.
Attendees said the event was helpful. Terri and Dennis McCloud, members of Berea Friendship, called it “very well prepared and extremely informative.”
Lexie Chatham, of Mount Hebron UMC, West Columbia, said, “Pentecost didn’t just happen 2,000 years ago. Pentecost Journey is a path to identity and unity.”
The task force has committed to following up with these participants over the next six months to help them carry out their plans, Murray said.
Plans are under way for the next Pentecost Journey, set for Nov. 18-19 in Greenville. They plan to be intentional about encouraging church teams to attend rather than individuals, which they believe will be a more effective way to cement their outreach. Registration will begin later this summer.
For more information on the Hispanic/Latino Task Force, visit www.umcsc.org/home/ministries/advocacy/hispanic-latino-ministries. More on the November Pentecost Journey will appear in future Advocates.