Apr 18, 2023

From all regions of the Eastern PA Conference, members of its Latino/Hispanic Commission came together to strengthen their unity in the Holy Spirit at their annual Holy Convocation on Saturday, April 15, at Casa del Rey UMC in Allentown, PA. Their richly manifested theme was “In One Accord in Prayer,” from Acts 1.14a.

“We had an amazing spiritual party, as the Holy Spirit led us to a time of prayer” said the Rev. Lisa DePaz, Coordinator of EPA’s Hispanic/Latino Ministries and pastor of Haws Avenue UMC in Norristown.

The Rev. Evelyn Kent Clark, South District Superintendent and EPA’s Cabinet Dean, blessed the gathering with a message of unity, “which we only obtain by seeking God’s presence together and in harmony.” DePaz called on the body to “rise to rebuild walls against the injustice, discrimination, and racism that continue to invade our congregations and society.

“We took time to lift in prayer our congregations, our EPA and GNJ conferences, our bishop and the Cabinet,” she recalled, “and each one of those who offer their time and talent serving God and working on the extension of the Kingdom of God in our regions.”

Her husband, the Rev. Cesar DePaz, pastor of Iglesia Metodista Unida Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit UMC) in Philadelphia, called on members to “keep the fire of the Holy Spirit burning in our lives and congregations for the healing and restoring of our communities.”

The Rev. Manfredo Martinez Luna, who co-chairs the commission, described the Holy Convocation as “an annual event where we convene as a Methodist people in a Latino/Hispanic context to worship together, recognizing our cultural diversity, and to be enriched by the gift of the other. We celebrate the renewing grace of God present in our congregations and ministries.

Personal, communal prayers reflected concerns

“The moments of personal and communal prayer reflected our concerns for our denomination and conferences, our ministries and leaders, and our social environment,” he explained, citing deep concerns about “terrorism, racism, misogyny and the sin of exclusion.”  

Martinez said, “The sacred space and spiritual intimacy in the flow of the day helped us feel the presence of God in our hearts.” He compared it to the heartwarming experience of those who met Jesus Christ on their walk to Emmaus and also to John Wesley’s heartwarming realization of the gift of his salvation on Aldersgate Street in London. “People left the place encouraged and emboldened to bring the fire to their congregations.” 

“I had not had an experience like this for a long time,” said Josefina Cartagena. “I loved Rev. Evelyn’s message; I received a spiritual renewal today,” said Norma Dolmo. “Each message was a blessing, and I want more experiences like this,” said Jose Dolmo.

“It was a truly immersive experience, marked by a profound sense of togetherness and spiritual rejuvenation,” said the Rev. Hun Ju Lee, North District Superintendent, who led the gathering’s celebration of Holy Communion. “Moments of prayer and reflection punctuated the event, offering attendees the space to meditate on the teachings we had received and to offer up our personal intentions.

“The powerful sense of unity and shared purpose was palpable,” he continued. “We left the event with a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper commitment to our spiritual journey, taking with us the lessons and memories of a truly transformative day. Overall, the convocation was a testament to the power of unity and prayer, leaving a lasting impact on the hearts and minds of all who attended.”

GNJ Director of Connectional Ministries Eric Drew, who works with racial-ethnic ministries in EPA&GNJ, gave the body its sending forth benediction. Martinez said the presence of EPA&GNJ Cabinet leaders, “affirms us in our intention to belong and to be connectional, as there is room for everyone at our table.”