Latino Coalition trainings teach UMC’s past, future

The EPA Conference Latino(a) Ministries Coalition offered back-to-back training events for two different groups in October, one focused on the relevant past, the other on the emerging future.

The first training, on Oct. 10-12, was for members of Latino churches wanting to learn more about their Wesleyan heritage. The second, on Oct. 18, was for non-Latino churches wanting to learn more about the Latino communities growing in their midst and how best to reach and engage them in ministry.

The first training event taught about 23 lay members about Methodist tradition and history. They came from Cristo Rey in West Grove, El Buen Samaritano in West Chester, El Mesías in Philadelphia, Casa del Pueblo in Hatboro, El Redentor/St Paul’s in Lancaster, La Trinidad in Allentown and Vida y Familia, a new church start also in Allentown.

The Rev. Patricia Gandarilla, a local pastor in Detroit and a facilitator of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries, was the lead instructor, teaching one of several courses provided by the National Plan, a program of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, based in Nashville, Tenn.

The Rev. Lilian “Luky” Cotto, pastor of Casa del Pueblo, organized the training event as a member of the Latino(a) Commission.  Students who completed the class, including several young adults, were awarded certificates during a Sunday worship service.

Reporting positive evaluations by attendees, Cotto quoted one who wrote, “I have been in the UMC for more than 24 years and never learned about our heritage. It is so rich and great. I learned a lot.”

“We will continue to offer training modules,” she said, “for our leaders to learn more about our heritage and mission as a church.”

The second training event, Latino Ministries for Non-Latino Churches, hosted by the National Christian Conference Center in Phoenixville, returns by popular demand. It came on the heels of a successful first class held in March at Haws Avenue UMC in Norristown.

This follow-up intensive training addressed demographics of Latino populations in our area and different ministry models to attract, welcome and serve Latino communities. A highlight of the training was a presentation on Latina Theology: Reading the Bible with Latino(a) Eyes, led by Dr. Loida Martell-Otero, a theology professor at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University.

“Our hope” said the Rev. Esdras Seda, EPA Conference Coordinator of Latino Ministries, “is that churches which sent teams to this training will develop a significant outreach ministry that we can celebrate by this time next year.”

 by John Coleman, EPA Conference Communications Director