Today, I had a wonderful meeting with the Hispanic/Latinx pastors of the presbytery. It was an opportunity to learn about the seven congregations and New Worshipping Communities that service in the Chicagoland. The 2020 census shows that the demographics of the city of Chicago and the Chicagoland area are changing. For the first time, Hispanics/Latinx have surpassed African Americans as the number one minority. The change is affecting the city as well as the suburbs. For example, Community New Day is a New Worshipping Community that is reaching Guatemalan, Columbian, Mexican, and other people from South American in the western suburbs.
As we shared the stories and updates from the various churches over fried plantains, pulled pork, and Puerto Rican rice, I heard the challenge and opportunity of being a Hispanic church in Chicago. Some congregations have multiple languages spoken in worship. This extends worship time and isn’t tolerated well by everyone. COVID has created the same hybrid worship experiences as in most congregations. It is complicated as serious illness and death has struck the Hispanic community especially hard. This is one reason many have not returned to in person worship. Gun violence plagues all our neighborhoods, but especially those with People of Color. One pastor shared the trauma the congregation is experiencing from the murder of a young teen who was participating and planning to join the church. Over 150 people attended the outdoor memorial service.
While meeting with this group, I felt both connected and disconnected. I enjoyed the food. I even enjoyed hearing different languages as the variety of cultures were expressed. However, I also felt as though these pastors were on an island, separated from the presbytery. I kept asking myself, “How can the presbytery demonstrate that we care about what happens to our Hispanic churches and leaders?”
I believe the answer is in the relationships that are built between churches of different cultures, class, and community. It will take non-Hispanic communities connecting with Hispanic churches to make the presbytery feel as one. The gift of the presbytery is the encouraging and nurturing of these connections through meetings, pulpit exchanges, social events, music, and food! So much can be shared through these cultural exchanges.
How can your congregation facilitate a cross-cultural connection? What does hospitality mean in welcoming the neighbor who is different but shares the Presbyterian name? There’s an island of pastors and churches willing to work with you to create a new shared community.
Rev. Craig M. Howard