The local church is the foundation of ministry, the Rev. Amaury Tañon-Santos told the annual gathering of MARCHA, United Methodism’s Hispanic/Latino caucus, during its Aug. 13-16 meeting.
“What we have discussed here regarding equity, justice and peace is very important,” he said. “However, for this to affect the life of the church and have an impact beyond it, there has to be a demonstration at the local level because that is the foundation of the ministry. Each local church has a particular challenge in identifying their contribution to the ministry from its reality. It should get out of the typecast and any other label that is imposed for being Hispanic/Latino or for any other reason.” Tañon-Santos is the networker for the Synod of the Northeast, Presbyterian Church (USA),
The Rev. Hector Burgos, MARCHA communications coordinator, shared his experience and welcomed a “new generation of Hispanic/Latino leaders that is rising and making its voice heard within the church and in society as agents of change, actively working with their communities for a more inclusive church and society.”
During a “Social Holiness” workshop, youth and young adults focused on biblical analyses of why God calls people to seek justice for the oppressed.
“We are definitely at an important moment in the history of our church because I think that it is ready to take decisions and make changes,” said Jonathan Cintrón Rodríguez, a young lay leader from Puerto Rico starting theological studies in Boston. “The church can count [on] committed youth to create intercultural and intergenerational bridges that help make decisions and take actions to promote the establishment of the kingdom of God. What I experienced here has given me the strength to keep walking in humility and among the people to carry the prophetic voice of my church.”
During plenary sessions, each jurisdiction had the opportunity to meet and update MARCHA about what is happening in their communities. Group workshops explored the theme, “Forging Ways of Equity, Justice and Peace.”
Preparing for General Conference ‘16
MARCHA also set aside plenary sessions to review legislative resolutions and proposals in preparation for General Conference in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20, 2016.
- Annual Conference Strategic Comprehensive Plans for Hispanic/Latino Ministries urges annual conferences to develop strategies for establishing ministries with Hispanic/Latino communities.
- MARCHA asks continuation of the United Methodist Hispanic/Latino Scholarship Fund, created by the 2012 General Conference to support college education among the Hispanic/Latino population.
- Financial Covenant for Sharing Facilities in Local Churches establishes an agreement between churches or faith communities that share facilities and outlines financial responsibilities for maintenance.
- United States-Mexico Border asks General Conference to advocate with the governments of both countries for policies that reduce economic disparities and encourage fair and well-paid jobs, correct environmental degradation and establish an immigration system that ensures United Nations agreements protecting migrant workers.
- Political Status of Puerto Rico, U.S. Policy in Vieques and Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera encourages United Methodists to educate congregations about the political situation in Puerto Rico without promoting a political or partisan perspective. After 60 years of United States military, Vieques still has active bombs and an altered ecosystem. Based on the support The United Methodist Church has traditionally provided the Vieques cause, MARCHA requests the General Conference to advocate restoration of the environmental conditions of the island. MARCHA also asks delegates to support immediate release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican patriot who has served more than 35 years in prison after a conviction of conspiracy because of his independence ideals.
- Lift the U.S. Economic Embargo in Cuba urges Congress to suspend the embargo and continue to strengthen the process of diplomatic restoration and trade relations.
Throughout the four days, MARCHA participants enjoyed a lively atmosphere. Each night, a local church hosted a service or gathering. Sun Prairie United Methodist Church opened its doors for a memorial service. Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of the Wisconsin Annual Conference preached and served Holy Communion with bishops Cynthia Fierro Harvey (Louisiana), Rafael Moreno (Puerto Rico) and Elias Galvan (retired). Monona United Methodist Church hosted a celebration of Hispanic/Latino ministries in Wisconsin. Young people participated in the praise band, skits and vibrant liturgical dances.
An awards and special recognitions banquet wrapped up the event with a performance by a local Mexican folklore-dance group, the honoring of outstanding members of the caucus and an impromptu multicultural Latin American karaoke session led by the youth. The event culminated with a closing worship and renewed spirits. MARCHA will convene in Puerto Rico in 2016.
Michelle Maldonado is associate director of Hispanic/Latino United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee.