By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—To see. To analyze. To discover. To describe. To understand. And then to craft a unique plan for United Methodist churches to engage their Latino neighbors.
That was the plan behind this year’s Pentecost Journey training, held by the South Carolina Conference Nov. 18-19 at Aldersgate UMC, Greenville. Led by members of the conference’s Hispanic/Latino Task Force and others, Pentecost Journey offered a chance for pastors and their church members to come as a team to learn, brainstorm and ultimately develop a strategic action plan to connect with Hispanic/Latino people in their communities.
“Pentecost Journey provided time and space to discern God’s call to be in ministry with Hispanic/Latinx persons in our state who are often invisible to us,” said one of the participants in the training, the Rev. Keith Ray, pastor of Clemson UMC, Clemson. “I was inspired to find many ways of extending God’s love and grace in new ways.”
“I learned so much about our Hispanic/Latino neighbors and their needs for support in our ministries,” said participant Stephen Singleton, member of Lawrence Chapel UMC, Central. “I now have so much to share from our learnings with our congregation to increase awareness in our community.”
The Rev. José Luis Villaseñor, church planter and pastor of Fiesta Cristiana in Apex, North Carolina, and president of the Hispanic/Latino Caucus of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The UMC, was the speaker for the training. The Rev. Elizabeth Murray, task force convener and coordinator for Hispanic/Latino ministries for the conference, and the Rev. Kristin Dollar organized the event with others from the task force. Given the rapidly growing Latino population in this state, with more Latinos than total United Methodists in South Carolina, Murray and Dollar said it is critical for the church to be strategic about reaching out to our neighbors, and the Pentecost Journey was a good place for churches to start.
“I was very pleased with those who came and our feedback,” Murray said. “The churches who participated came up with great plans.”
Pentecost Journey started Friday evening with a dinner and bilingual worship, then the first session, plus testimonies and time for reflection. The training continued Saturday with a devotional; then participants dove into developing a community profile. After lunch, they began initial work on developing an action plan for Hispanic/Latino ministry in each church’s individual context.
“This has been one of the best workshops I have attended in quite awhile,” said the Rev. Phyllis L. Glahn of St. Luke UMC, Spartanburg. “Personal comments and explanation of ethnic attitudes from those in and working with our Hispanic/Latino communities was very valuable. I left with actual, practical, ideas.”
Gekysha Sullivan, member of Wesley Chapel UMC, said the event was “eye-opening” with much information shared about the Hispanic/Latino community.
“Ideas were shared between the focus groups that helped everyone to think outside the box and come up with additional thoughts and ideas to help bridge the gaps within our individual community to build a stronger Kingdom,” Sullivan said.
The task force is already planning for next year’s Pentecost Journey.
For more on Hispanic/Latino ministries and the task force, visit www.umcsc.org/home/ministries/advocacy/hispanic-latino-ministries, or like their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hispanicministriesumcsc.
By Jessica Brodie