Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities: The Ministry of Presence

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities: The Ministry of Presence

Article excerpt

As a practitioner of transformational ministries my prayers, hopes, and dreams are about experiencing and sharing the ways that the Holy Spirit moves, inspires, guides, and helps us to join as one body in the healing of this broken world through actions of justice and love. My mission in ministry has been to establish, grow, and sustain Hispanic ministries in the Episcopal Church while integrating English- and Spanish-speaking members into one bilingual, multicultural congregation and community. With the support of the Episcopal Church Foundation fellowship, we created two women's ministries programs - Abuelas, Madres y Más (Grandmothers, Mothers, and More) and Ruth and Naomi. I collaborated with Ema RoseroNordalm, a committed lay Episcopalian, experienced grassroots leader, and candidate for ordination to the diaconate, to create a type of "seminary for lay women," initially at Grace Church and subsequently at Iglesia San Pedro in Salem, Massachusetts.

The Hispanic ministry in Salem came about because the Diocese of Massachusetts is intentionally seeding Latino ministries. With the support of the Right Reverend M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, Grace Church, and other collaborators, I landed in Salem and launched a Hispanic ministry. I became interested in starting a women's ministry program while exploring, listening, and getting to know the largely Latino community of The Point neighborhood. Ema and I believed that any new ministry we could offer in Salem would grow out of the needs and interests of the community. Therefore, with faith as our foundational principle, we drew on our years of combined experience working in public health, counseling, grassroots leadership development, training, and community organizing to become part of la comunidad (the community).

During the assessment phase we learned that Latinos in Salem were mostly of Dominican descent and that this demographic shared values of faith, hope, and spirituality as a resource in their daily lives. However, they found themselves without many basic physical and relational resources because of their immigrant situations. While there were several churches of diverse denominations with Spanishlanguage worship ministries, something was missing for them. The women we interviewed expressed interest in starting peer groups to support one another; they were hungry for a "present" Christ. A year prior to applying for the transformational ministry fellowship, Etna and 1 decided to launch a five-week pilot program that integrated faith, spirituality, mentoring, and companionship for women raising children - Abuelas, Madres tj Has (Grandmothers, Mothers, and. More). This program eventually grew into the two programs that the Episcopal Church Foundation supported in our community. Both offered immigrant women raising children in Salem and neighboring communities a safe place to explore their gifts and talents, address their concerns about raising bilingual/bicultural children, and find resources to help cope with the stress of raising children in a foreign environment and different culture. Initially, the primary difference between the two groups was generational; at present there is one intergenerational ministry program for women. This shift had two unexpected outcomes. The first was the participants' decision to receive training to facilitate charlan (workshops) for teenage mothers in the community - they became mentors and companions. The second was that 90 percent of the program participants and their family members became Episcopalians. These two remarkable outcomes grew out of our ministry of presence, listening, and response to the needs of the people.

In order to respond to the community's needs we integrated the use of participants' spirituality and faith as resources in the charlas. We helped the participants recognize their strength and wisdom in order to fortify their self-esteem and empower them to share their values in support of other caregivers. …

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