By Vern Rice, Local Mission Partners, chair
More than five years ago, Pastor Paul Erickson, then on the staff for the Saint Paul Area Synod, asked me, “Do you think Christ the King could consider a Latino ministry?” With almost no Latino members at CtK, I was struck by his bold question.
At that time, I was studying Alan Roxburgh’s book, Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood at some adult education sessions with the Block Party Team. This book encouraged us to go into the neighborhood as the next step in engaging in God’s mission. We visited our neighborhood school and discovered that more than a third of the students were people of color.
Ana Becerra and I visited a manufactured home park in our neighborhood. I was so glad that Ana spoke Spanish because many of the people we met only spoke Spanish. We invited them to our Vacation Bible School and Block Party. Our Block Party soon grew to more than fifteen hundred people; at least a third of the attendees were neighborhood people of color.
For many years, Local Mission Partners has worked with Pueblo de Fe, our Latino ministry in West St. Paul. Their ministry coordinator, Jacqueline Belzer, joined Ana Becerra in starting a weeknight Bible study and support group for our Latino neighbors.
Ana Becerra (left) with Pastor Jacqueline Belzer (right)
Dos comunidades, una iglesia. Two communities, one church.Cristo Rey (meaning Christ the King in Spanish) has now grown as Jacqueline has become an ordained Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) pastor and the mission developer for Cristo Rey. Thirty-two people from eight families meet every Tuesday evening for Cristo Rey’s Bible study. For special events such as the pre-Christmas Los Posadas, up to eighty people typically attend.
This year, our bilingual Ash Wednesday service drew several Latino people, some of whom hadn’t taken Holy Communion for years. Their joy at being welcomed by CtK into the gracious love of Christ was deeply appreciated. A quarter of the children taking First Communion this spring were Latino. For three years Latino youth affiliated with Cristo Rey have attended Wapo Bible Camp.
Caminando juntos. Walking together.Pastor Jacqueline and Ana want to recognize CtK for being willing to walk with them in this ministry. We all recognize it is not easy to build a new ministry. For both CtK and Cristo Rey, it is hard to know what the next steps should be. But being patient and trusting the leading of God’s Spirit, we will accompany each other in this important mission adventure!
Article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of the Herald, Christ the King's monthly newsletter. Read the complete issue.