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Sunday, August 9, 2020

An Unusual Hispanic Lutheran & Presbyterian Parish

Parroquia San José, photo via Facebook
In reviewing how Lutherans and Episcopalians are welcoming the Hispanic community, and even embracing aspects of Latin American Roman Catholic religious culture into their midst, I hadn't really considered other groups. I assumed, for instance, that the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) would have Hispanic ministries, but not go to the lengths of the two other denominations I was looking into. It appears that I was almost right. 

The other day I was looking into the current situation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) Hispanic outreach in Wisconsin, keeping in mind that the church featured in the paper by Luisa Feline Freier was given an alternative name, and I wasn't surprised at this point to come across Parroquia Santa Maria , an ELCA parish that puts Mary the mother of Jesus at the center stage as a saint. The imagery is indeed very much that found in the Roman Catholic Church, all the way to the crown indicating that she is 'the Queen of Heaven.' This imagery is mixed with Lutheran themes, such as in one photo where the image of Mary is near a cross with the Luther rose at the center, and text indicating the celebration of 502 years of Reformation. 

It was another Hispanic ELCA parish in Wisconsin, San José, that really surprised me because, in fact, it's a dual-affiliated congregation. That means it is in relationship with two Protestant denominations. One is the ELCA, and the other is the PCUSA. I'm not sure how this happened, and suspect it might have to do with things that happened in the parish prior to the Hispanic ministry, but there it was. An ELCA/Presbyterian Hispanic parish incorporating strongly Roman Catholic imagery.
Parroquia San José, photo via Facebook

Having only been a member of the PCUSA for about a year when I was in my late teens I can't speak with any real authority about how such a thing as this might be viewed among them. I'm inclined to think that this came about more through the ELCA side of things, and that the PCUSA is just along for the ride. I took a look at the PCUSA directory of Hispanic ministries, and outside of Wisconsin didn't notice any that appeared to be like San José. However, I didn't check each and every listing. The Presbyterians have a page dedicated to Hispanic/Latino ministries, but again I didn't see any indication of work emphasizing the inclusion of Latino Catholic culture. Again, it could exist but I simply haven't found it as readily as I did for the ELCA and the Episcopal Church.

What I did find were PCUSA parishes that appear either perfectly traditional, or else contemporary in style. That brings up a point that I think needs to be emphasized, and which I'll explore in my upcoming post on a Unitarian Universalist way of approaching multiracial and Hispanic ministry: it isn't necessarily required for churches to adopt a Catholic style in order to be welcoming to Hispanics. More and more evangelicalism and Pentecostalism are making inroads in historically Catholic countries in Central and South America, as well as in the Caribbean. This isn't news, as Protestant missionaries have been in these places for over a century. The difference is that in some areas the Catholic influence is eroding more rapidly, with evangelicalism ascending. 

Comunidad Cristiana Restauracion, photo via Facebook

In any case, I just wanted to share in a post that little tidbit about a rather atypical PCUSA parish. In tomorrow's post I'll move on to some UU considerations.