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Re: Iglesia Episcopal Bienvenidos

My friend Tim Holder serves as rector of Grace Church in Birmingham,
Alabama.  He went there in 1998, fresh out of Harvard Divinity School.
It's the sort of neighborhood that 'out' gay priests find much less
threatening than many of their straight counterparts, and it sometimes
serves Episcopal politics to keep gay priests more 'out of the way.'

Grace has experienced much resurrection and vitality in Tim's short time
there. His enthusiasm for people is one and the same as his enthusiasm for
Jesus.  One Easter not too long ago Tim looked out the window near the
beginning of the service and saw over a dozen Mayan males from Guatemala
walking together dressed for church and to his joy and amazement, they
entered Grace.  "Louie, I prayed that I would recover some Spanish now
rusty from college."  He did.  When he gave the Pascal blessing in
Spanish, the 'visitors' all stood and applauded.  There is now a Spanish
congregation at Grace numbering over 150, with my friend Ernesto Obregon
as an associate.  (Alabama is one of the only three dioceses of ECUSA to
gain in its share of the US population over the last 3 decades.)

If there are any other bold and resourceful priests willing to take on
this challenge, Grace now needs you.  In September Tim will become rector
of Trinity in the South Bronx.  Contact Grace's senior warden, one of the
most committed gay disciples of Jesus that I have ever met, Brad LaMonte,
at Lamontebe@aol.com.

Trinity/South Bronx, get ready:  it will happen for you too, full measure,
pressed down and running over!

Chris Cantrell is right to warn that we should not go part way.  My own
diocese has a miserable record in Hispanic ministry, giving it next to no
priority.  My friend and colleague on Executive Council Francisco Duque
lived at Seamen's Institute one block from our cathedral and two blocks
from Diocesan House for six months in 2000.  Francisco told me that other
Spanish speakers he met while here repeatedly asked about the Episcopal
Church, but he but could not find ministry to them in Newark.  He went to
Newark's House of Prayer because it had a sign saying "Abla Espanol," but
the incumbent told him that no priest there had spoken Spanish for the
last three priests to serve the parish.

Francisco is the new Bishop of Colombia.  Columbia has not been able to
persuade any diocese in ECUSA to have a companion relationship since the
early 1980s, before Francisco became a priest.

Obviously we don't want to promise more than we can deliver.  The problem
is more systemic than websites, even though websites might encourage us to
begin to reverse the problem.  I note a glimmer of hope at one parish in
our diocese that is making a difference with a Spanish web presence,

I believe that one of the main reasons ECUSA in general and this diocese
in particular have shrunk so dramatically in the last 30 years is that we
have studiously avoided the challenges of welcoming those who have moved
here in the greatest numbers.

According to the US Census, "Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin" make up
12.5% of the population of the United States and 13.3% of the State of New
Jersey.  (Check the percent in your state at

Do we need to get radical about this?  Might it be time for dioceses to
stop priesting anyone who is not bi-lingual or willing to pass a
proficiency test in 2 years after taking a course that the diocese pays

Just what part of "uttermost parts of the earth" do we not understand?
Often the "uttermostest" part is in our town, our block, or the county
park in which my home sits.


Louie Crew, 377 S. Harrison, 12D, East Orange, NJ 07018 973-395-1068

Don't miss Claiming the Blessing, a conference in St. Louis, 7-9 Nov 02
For information, contact The Rev. Susan Russell, revsusanrussell@earthlink.com

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