It has been said that Latino Ministry is one of the most exciting areas of growth within the Episocpal Diocese of Washington. As we come to the end of observing Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), it’s a great time for us to celebrate this flourishing and vibrant ministry within our diocese, learn more about the congregations and communities that provide a home to so many people from different countries and cultures from Latin America and the Caribbean, and ask the question: how did Latino Ministry in our diocese begin?
I can recall the first time I stepped foot in an Episcopal church in Beltsville, MD in the early 2000s, knowing only that all–including children–were welcomed at the rail. I didn’t know what to expect, but as Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” That day I embarked on a spiritual journey with this small Latino community, one I never imagined was possible. I was embraced by this faithful familia and yet for years, I had no knowledge of our connection to the wider diocese or the full history of how Latino Ministry began here.
The more I learned about mi gente, the more curious I became about our ministry in the diocese. The first liturgical service in Spanish was offered in 1974 by the mission of St. John’s, LaFayette Square. It took place at the Rosemount Center, which was founded by the House of Mercy, a charity of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and is located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, one of the most multicultural, multi-generational, and multilingual areas in the District. Mount Pleasant was also the first neighborhood I lived in as a child.
From that auspicious beginning, Latino Ministry grew through the years with the vision of leaders such as the Revs. Samuel Pinzón, Daniel Robles, José Villar, Enrique Brown, Luis León and Simón Bautista — to name a few.
From 2002 to now, more Latino faith communities formed in addition to the one established at St. John’s, LaFayette Square, and we welcomed ministries at Our Saviour, Hillandale; St. Matthew’s, Hyattsville; St. Michael’s and All Angels, Adelphi; St. Stephen’s and the Incarnation, DC; Church of the Ascension, Gaithersburg; and St. Alban’s, DC. During Bishop John Bryson Chane’s time, seven Latino worshipping communities were formally established and five continue growing and thriving. Today, there are six Latino faith communities, including Misa Magdalena at St. Mary Magdalene, Aspen Hill, our newest Latino Ministry congregation, planted by the Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin, diocesan Latino Missioner.
Each Latino congregation has its own story and brings a different texture, culture and gift that adds to the diversity of the collective body of Christ within our diocese. The richness in their faith, struggles, and joys feeds my soul. I am proud to be a product of the Latino Ministry in this diocese that allows mi gente — mi familia — and me to journey in God’s transcending love.
Missioner for Diocesan Initiatives