Hispanic/Latino clergy of The United Methodist Church met to explore facets of their wellbeing in life and ministry together, October 30 to November 1, in Phoenix, Arizona. EPA&GNJ clergy attended the national gathering, titled “Entre Nos” (Among Us) and coordinated by the denomination’s National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry (NPHLM). It was their first since before the Covid pandemic.
The event’s emphasis was on fellowship, wellbeing, peace of mind and opportunities for ministry and growth. Key presenters were leaders of United Methodist-related Wespath Benefits and Investments and MARCHA (Metodista Asociados Representando la Causa Hispana Americana or Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic/Latino Americans).
The clergy gathered for dinner and worship on the first evening, Monday, greeting each other, connecting with old friends, and meeting new ones. It was amazing that the whole gathering was conducted in three languages: Spanish, Portuguese and English.
Guest preacher Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, leader of the California-Nevada Annual Conference and the church’s first Latina bishop, elected in 2004, spoke words of uplift as she opened her heart about what she went through (in her recent 18-month episcopal suspension and acquittal in a church trial).
Keep seeking opportunities to expand our beloved church
Her words were of love for our United Methodist Church, and she encouraged all present to keep seeking opportunities to expand our beloved church. Communion was celebrated by all the bishops present, including Bishop Elias Galván.
Tuesday was filled with information. Wespath staff facilitated workshops on retirement, achieving financial wellness and negotiating clergy compensation packages. A session on self-care and wellbeing addressed time management, taking time to enjoy life and minimizing stress in ministry.
Wednesday was a day of seeing, thinking and planning. The Rev. Dorlimar Lebrón Malavé, a former New York Conference pastor and now Wespath Conference Relations Manager, presented statistics on churches closed and disaffiliated as of October 2023. Yet, her message was one of inspiration, encouraging us to see the “glass as half-full, not half-empty” and to feel confident that opportunities will knock on our door as we move forward.
Roundtable discussions in the afternoon convened clergy from different conferences and different contexts at each table. This was a chance to dream and plan. In closing, we shared good ideas for reaching out to our communities and engaging in creative, meaningful ministries.
Clergy from EPA were proud to have a Latino/Hispanic Coordinator (the Rev. Maria Quesada “Lisa” DePaz) on the conference staff and an organized Latino Commission. Many other conferences have Latino/Hispanic clergy serving solo in their ministries. (The Rev. Lydia Muñoz , NPHLM Executive Director, is also an EPA clergy member.)
This gathering was a blessing for many who feel alone and alienated in their conferences. EPA & GNJ clergy had a good representation in this gathering, and we were blessed to be able to attend. A grant was provided to all our clergy to cover the costs.
* The Rev. Bruny Martínez* is the pastor of St. Luke’s and Ebenezer UM churches in Lebanon, PA, and EPA’s former Latino/Hispanic Coordinator.