I have served as Latino Missioner of the diocese for six years. It has been a soul-satisfying journey to see our Spanish-speaking, multicultural congregations moving into maturity under the leadership of dedicated and gifted clergy.
Five of our Latino congregations–Iglesia de la Ascension, Iglesia Nuestro Salvador, Misa Alegria de San Esteban, St Matthews/San Mateo and Iglesia San Albano–are all now at least 10 years old, with some moving toward twenty years of ministry. In 2017 a new Spanish-speaking, multicultural congregation emerged at St. Mary Magdalene in Aspen Hill, a multicultural suburban neighborhood with a majority Latino population. With a generous welcome, Misa Magdalena is off to a healthy start.
Although 99% of our members have been newcomers to the Episcopal Church, they have found a spiritual home, eagerly embracing not only our liturgy but our theology of inclusion and justice and love. We are experiencing a growth spurt in leadership development and discipleship. Latino members of our congregations are sitting on vestries and serving as Diocesan Convention delegates.
Our Saviour’s interim Senior Warden is Fernando Hermoza. The incoming Senior Warden as well as the majority of the Vestry at St. Matthew/San Mateo, one of the largest churches in the Diocese, will be Latino. Karina Rodriguez in her early 20s is the youngest member of the St. Alban’s vestry; she not only represents the Latino community but also young adults as well.
Formation has been a key in developing our leaders and building their confidence to lead.
There are currently three Latino postulants in the diaconal ordination process. The Rev. Yoimel Gonzalez is the Dean for the Latino Deacons’ School. In conjunction with our Deacons’ School, led by Archdeacon Sue Rautenkranz, the Latino Deacons’ School is a model for other dioceses looking to open their diaconal process to Spanish-speaking Latinos.
The Episcopal Diocese of Washington is on the forefront of a formation and discipleship program–an Episcopal-Lutheran collaboration called Academia Ecumenica de Liderazgo (Ecumenical Leadership Academy.) Each learning group is led by trained lay facilitators. Our friend and diocesan staff member, Mildred Reyes, is one of these trainers prepared by the Episcopal Church. We have used this curriculum for two seasons. EDOW now has 16 facilitators ready to lead this program in their congregations.
Mildred, a person of many gifts and a product of St. Matthew/San Mateo, is a perfect example of the fruits of our Latino congregations. In addition to all she does on the bishop’s staff, she also sits on the Council of Advice to the Rev. Anthony Guillen, Missioner of Latino/Hispanic Ministries of the Episcopal Church and is well known in the wider church.
Our Latino communities have been strongly impacted by COVID-19 and the many economic repercussions of the pandemic. Knowing the need, our Latino congregations quickly got to work feeding the hungry–with some now distributing up to 650 boxes of food per week–and finding a special blessing in widening the circle of care and concern to the surrounding community. We are experiencing the fruits of going into the world to love and serve the community outside the church walls.
My time as missioner will soon come to an end. I will retire in early February. My ministry has been richly blessed by having been called to Latino Ministry. The love of God, understanding of community and the common good of the people I have served have inspired me, given me courage and made me a better Christian. I have learned daily from these friends about faith and love. They have covered my life–and my family’s–with color, fiesta and joy. What a rich vineyard it is. We are all seeing the beauty of these good fruits. I have no doubt that the best harvest is yet to come.
The Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin