We are a Christian community serving others. Many outreach ministries allow us to discover and use our gifts to serve others. We value and appreciate one another, which makes us part of something wonderful and pleasant. Worship is central to our relationship with God. Our goal is to help people of all ages and backgrounds find a way to praise their Creator in a meaningful manner. Children are a priority at Epworth. A variety of age-appropriate ministries are offered to introduce children to God in ways they understand. The core of adult ministries is small group Bible studies. These groups allow adults to explore faith issues in a casual environment, while growing closer to one another.
The Rev. Dr. Edwin Santos ended his service with the General Board of Discipleship on June 2009 and received a new appointment to Epworth UMC in July 1st 2009.
Before he was recruited by GBOD Santos worked as staff of the Florida Conference, and was an instrumental part of the growth of the conference’s Hispanic ministries. The number of Hispanic missions and churches doubled during his time with the conference, increasing from 30 to 64.
His work also included implementing the Florida Conference Comprehensive Hispanic Plan and increasing the participation of Hispanics in conference activities, such as the annual Hispanic Family Camp, held each Labor Day weekend. The camp has grown from about 400 participants to more than 550, and organizers have had to turn away more than 100 people because of lack of space.
“Working as director of Hispanic Ministries in the Florida Conference was a great experience and opportunity that God gave to me. The team that I was relating with, led by the Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder (director of Connectional Ministries), constantly gave me and my people the space to be heard. I think the experience in Florida was a major factor in the contribution I offered to the national church and now in the local church”.”
“Connectionalism was my primary focus during the time I worked with GBOD and Florida Conference. And now “Connectionalism” is part of my strategy in the local church. People always needs to work in a community, we can’t isolate from the rest of the world around us.
Santos previously served as pastor and director of the multicultural center at First United Methodist Church, Kissimmee, as well as pastor of Centennial United Methodist Church in Rockford, Ill., where he developed The Community Night Center and a The Multicultural Center. Also he worked as Pastor in Los Angeles Methodist Church, Carolina, Puerto Rico and Iglesia Metodista Bo. Pasto, Aibonito, Puerto Rico.
Rev. Dr. Edwin Santos is an ordained elder in the Florida Annual Conference. He has authored numerous articles and resources in Multiculturalism and Leadership Development. He leads workshops in several areas like Evangelism, Christian Education, National Plan Modules, New Church Development, Church Revitalization, Congregational Mobilization, Pentecost Journey, Partners in the Mighty Works of God and training for consultants and facilitators.
Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds: Embracing Our Hispanic/Latino Brothers and Sisters
by Rev. Dr. Cruz Edwin Santos
How can we prepare to be a church that embraces and celebrates multiculturalism? This is a central question for The United Methodist Church.
In the book, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation,author Miroslav Volf says that the primary task of theology today is assisting humankind in finding ways of embracing “the other.” The sins of racism, sexism, ageism, and classism divide humans from one another. These sins stand in the way of our ability to respond positively to God’s Great Commandment to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The Good Samaritan story expands our understanding of “the other.” It answers the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is clear: Anyone you encounter who is in need of God’s love and care is your neighbor. The church is to be open to encountering others, receiving others, including others, and caring for others as one would for oneself.
We are to avoid isolating, excluding, and ignoring those whom we perceive as different, because doing so goes against Jesus’ teachings.
The challenge and claim that God places before us this day — if we would be true to the gospel — is to find ways for people to encounter one another with respect and in peace. God is present among us when we seek to extend the realm of God and make it inclusive of others. The Christian story — at its heart — is the story of God who came to dwell among us so that we might become God’s own people.
Listen, Affirm, and Share — Positive Ministry for Today
There are three steps that we — as leaders in building the kingdom of God — can take to begin fulfilling this gospel vision of multicultural ministry in The United Methodist Church.
- Listen. Jesus always began interacting with anyone by listening. Luke tells us that at age twelve, Jesus was in the temple with the Doctors of the Law, listening to them and asking questions. Before he healed people, Jesus listened to their stories of illness, loneliness, and rejection. Even standing before his accusers and hanging on the cross, Jesus was silent, listening to the false accusations and taunts.We need to listen to those voices in our churches and our communities that are not usually heard and those to whom we have not listened in the past. This listening is an active listening. It is listening to understand the perspective of the person to whom you are listening. It is not just translating and receiving words, but listening to the culture, tradition, music, style of worship, dance, history, struggles, needs, wants, dreams, and desires behind the words. It is listening to people who may be angry with us and listening to people who may falsely — or justly — accuse us. It is listening with open hearts and open minds.
- Affirm Because of the conditions in which they enter the United States, many Hispanics may have low self-esteem. Many come because of the poor conditions in their home countries. People from Venezuela and Colombia are escaping war, violence, drug trade, and slavery. Some Hispanics come looking for work to support their families in their homeland. When Hispanics come to this country, their perception of “the American Dream” is owning a house and a car, having a good job with a good salary, and having many material possessions. They measure their “success” against those they see around them and the people in our churches. For many, the lack of education and differences in language mean they will never attain this “ideal of success.” This realization influences their self-esteem and their view of being worthy of God’s love and care. Our ministry to this reality is to help redefine “success”: to measure worth in God’s terms, not in human terms. We must teach in such a way that each person has a goal of becoming what God created and called him or her to be. Success and self-esteem are measured by obedience to God, not by collections of material possessions. Emphasizing that God sees each one of us as a precious child builds self-esteem.
- Share God expects us to share our time, our knowledge, our lives, our leadership skills, and ourselves. One way in which Jesus shared himself was through meals with the people to whom he ministered. The stories of Mary and Martha and of Zacchaeus are just two examples. Hispanics/Latinos also love to celebrate over a meal, usually in the form of a party with good music and dance. Family and friends unite over a table of good food. Churches interested in reaching out to other cultures can invite “the others” to sit down with them at a shared table over shared food.Don’t be afraid to open your hearts and doors to people different from you. Share your stories, your victories, and your challenges. Share your fears, hopes, and dreams. You will probably discover that you and “the others” have many of the same stories, fears, hopes, and dreams. Share your knowledge, experience, and expertise. In other words, equip these people for ministry.
Finally, share authority and leadership. Share leadership by inviting Hispanic/Latinos to lead in worship, teach small groups, join in outreach and mission. The true kingdom of God is one in which worship, leadership, authority, responsibility, and accountability are all shared.
Important Points to Know
In reaching out to Hispanics/Latinos in your community, there are a couple of points to recognize:
- Power & Authority The words “power” and “authority” have different meanings, depending upon the culture in which they are defined. We can begin to understand what it means to share our authority when we answer questions, such as:” What do others need to know about my culture to be included in the community?” Authority is defined differently in the Hispanic/Latino community than in other communities. Hispanics/Latinos believe strongly in a co-parenting authority shared between parents and godparents called compadrazgo. Children are taught to call their godparents padrino and madrina, which are special titles derived from the Spanish words for father andmother. This custom contrasts with other cultures in which “godparent” is largely a ceremonial title and, in some instances, is being changed to “sponsor.” In Hispanic/Latino culture, the perception of “authority” is defined in collectivity (by the community) instead of an individualistic approach.
- Assimilation & Acculturation Assimilation and acculturation are very important concepts to know and understand when talking about multiculturalism. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “acculturation” as “cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture.” Assimilation is defined as “to absorb into the culture or mores of a population or group.”Assimilation is contrary to the traditions of the Hispanic/Latino community (see Wilkerson, Barbara, ed., Multicultural Religious Education, page 240). Assimilation is resisted, because Hispanic/Latino families have a very strong sense of respect for the language, culture, heritage, traditions, symbols, rites, history, and practices that form their culture.
Hispanics/Latinos are called “deep” communicators, because their way of life and communication style reflects a commitment to the deep roots handed down through generations. Hispanics/Latinos don’t want to lose their cultural identity.
Hispanics/Latinos are better able to tolerateacculturation or cultural integration. Cultural integration allows them to maintain cultural values and goals, while learning and adapting some values and practices of the mainstream culture.
The ideal situation is for members of different cultures to coexist and enrich one another. A peaceful, mutually beneficial relationship means that cultures do not have to fight to keep their identity because everybody respects others’ traditions and culture.