Hispanic Ministries began as a program of the Massachusetts Conference in 2001, and hundreds of lives have been touched and changed since. The legacy of that work continues into the next era with the Hispanic Ministries Working Team. The goals of the Working Team include:
Conference Minister and President Dr. Jim Antal asks congregations to make Hispanic Ministries part of their mission budgets.
"I hope that every one of our congregations will include Hispanic Ministries as a line in their mission budget," Antal said. “The challenge is for you to lead your congregation to prayerfully examine your mission budget and decide to create a line in your mission budget for Hispanic Ministries of the Mass. Conference, and to assure that your commitment to be a partner in this ministry will not reduce your giving to the wider church.”
Demographics are shifting. In all the major urban areas of Massachusetts, the diverse Hispanic population is growing. Churches which have intentionally partnered with and housed Hispanic ministries are experiencing a vibrant cross-fertilization in church life and worship. And many Hispanic UCC churches have opened or are emerging
There are current and evolving ministries in Jamaica Plain, Lowell and Worcester and ministries emerging in Everett, Southbridge and Lawrence.
The ministry with Christ Church United in Lowell includes lively worship and healthy community. That healthy community spreads to the children and makes its way throughout the school system. In fact, the Lowell school system can tell which students attend our UCC local church, because they can see the difference in behavior and grades. The lives we are affecting now will make an impact on the future.
It was summertime when Maria first visited the church. A young woman with a desire to succeed and be responsible with her work, Maria carried a sadness in her heart, because coming to this country had forced her to leave her daughter in the Dominican Republic. The only dream she had was to have her daughter with her again, and to provide her with a better lifestyle than the one they would have had if they continued to live in the country of their birth. Maria's despair was more unbearable every day, not knowing if it was possible to reunite with her daughter.
After much prayer, submission of papers, and talks with attorneys and immigration authorities, Maria's dream came true. Her joy was the joy of the whole church; her testimony was: "With the prayers and the instructions that the pastor gave me, with all his advice on how I should act, now I have my daughter with me. I can only say thank God and thank you all for your support at all times."
Maria now has another daughter born in this country. She has become an authorized notary public. Her daughter has started confirmation classes so that their Christian values will be tied to her heart and her future will be a successful one.
The day that Juan and Ali arrived at the church was at the beginning of a long and difficult period of economic, family and personal instability. Juan and Ali had been facing job loss, and were about to lose their home. In the stress of their situation, their relationship was crumbling to the point that they were already talking about divorce.
They joined the church and agreed to start with orientation and spiritual formation…. and so began to renew their relationship with God. Along with this journey, the church began to look for places to help Juan and Ali receive legal help to retain ownership of their house, while simultaneously motivating and helping them to submit job applications and make phone calls in search of work.
Ali's words were: "We can bear this no more. The burden is heavy. It seems that everything is against us; but at the same time we are seeing that God has not left us, and there is hope that things will improve."
Today we see Juan and Ali serving as leaders in the church. Ali is working as a social worker and finishing her degree in psychology. Juan has construction work for most of the year and in the winter he works as a snow remover for a stable company. Their marriage has been restored, and they succeeded in making an arrangement with the bank which enabled them to keep their home.
Juan testifies: "With God in our heart and our family in faith on our side, we face every day's challenges”
Photos: Vacation Bible School at Iglesia Hispana and Danneza Torres, pastor of Iglesia Hispana de la Comunidad, UCC in Lowell