By Carlos Pellot
Earlier this month on August 2-3, 2013, the Caminemos Juntos Conference took place in the border city of El Paso, TX. Caminemos Juntos (Let’s Walk Together) is the Hispanic arm of the Anglican Church in North America’s Anglican 1000 Initiative and also belongs to the Greenhouse Movement whose director is the Rev. Canon William Beasly of Chicago.
Eight bishops, among whom six represented the different dioceses and regions of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), were present. The Most Rev. Robert Duncan of the ACNA and the Most Rev. Tito Zavala, Primate of the Southern Cone, were the two archbishops who represented their churches at the national and provincial level. That Caminemos Juntos El Paso was able to gather a vast array of clergy from the ACNA and as far as the Southern Cone indicates the growing presence of Latinos in the North American church.
A highlight for me in the ACNA Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic was that so many bishops attended including my own bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey who was present with his wife, the Rev. Meg Guernsey.
The gathering at El Paso is the third annual edition of Caminemos Juntos, the first two having taken place in 2011 in the Chicago area and in 2012 in Fresno, CA. Caminemos Juntos remains vibrant and growing, bringing more people with each conference. Latino churches in the Anglican tradition all across North America keep forming.
Presently, there are over 60 Hispanic congregations within ACNA, 18 of which are in Cuba! Who would have thought! And at the same time we shouldn’t be surprised about all of this. Anglicanism is growing all over the world.
The conference emphasized that the movement of planting Hispanic churches in North America is important for the overall health and growth of the church. It illustrated that Anglicans are serious about cultural engagement and promoting the rich diversity, which the Hispanic Anglicans bring to the mix within our dioceses and the ACNA.
The demographic face of North America, particularly the United States, has changed and will continue to change, we learned. The corollary is that the face of Anglicanism in North America is also changing.
The Rev. Bill Cobb and St. Clement’s Anglican Church of El Paso hosted the gathering of over 120 people. Many youth were present and took part in the pre-conference workshops and missional activities including a trip to Ciudad Juarez across the border on Aug 1.
An excellent video presentation on “The New American Reality” was given as all present were greeted and welcomed to Caminemos Juntos El Paso. Archbishop Duncan opened up the conference with an exposition of The Road to Emmaus passage from Luke 24. The disciples were on the road, not static or stagnating. It was only as they were moving along that Christ approached them and were able to comprehend God’s purpose. In addition, there were two of them on the road not one. They walked in company, they walked together not alone. This is significant because it follows the pattern of the Gospel of Jesus.
This is not the Gospel of the lone ranger.
Canon William Beasly responded to Archbishop Duncan’s message with an encouraging exhortation of why we need the Latino church as an essential ingredient of ACNA if we are going to grow in a way that is representative of our communities and our country at large. The canon’s exhortation was followed by a Greenhouse Bishops’ Panel in which the bishops present were able to share briefly about the ways their dioceses are learning, growing, doing outreach and working to engage other ethnic groups in their areas.
The Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic is a young diocese with a committed and gifted bishop in the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey. One of the ways in which this commitment is played out is by prioritizing the work of outreach and evangelism - missional engagement with those in our midst who might not have been in our radar on the past but whom we can no longer ignore as biblical Anglicans. Our diocese is in the right hands and on the right track.
Another highlight on the first night of the conference was the presence of one who is arguably the premier authority on musical contemporary worship among Latinos in the whole world, Mexican singer and pastor Marcos Witt. Known all over the Latino world and beyond for his spiritually moving worship songs, Marcos Witt has been a pastor for over 20 years and gave a stirring sermon on the subject of true worship based on John 4 where we find the words,
“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.” (Vs. 23, NLT)
This was Marcos Witt’s first encounter with Anglicans and he sure made the most of it. He engaged us from the start and in his uniquely charismatic and funny way opened the Word taking us through a series of points ending with the simple and poignant question of “Am I a true worshipper?” This is the question for all of us in the ministry of the church, lay or ordained.
The conference finished on the Saturday morning of August 3, with Latinos and non-Latinos from Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Florida, Canada, Bolivia, Chile, Virginia, Venezuela, Texas, Mexico, Guatemala and many other places, joining together in Eucharistic worship. The Word was preached by the Archbishop Tito Zavala. He sent us off with a powerful and incarnational sermon and a picture of what the Lord is doing in the Chilean Church to charge all of us who love the church to dream and work towards the establishment of that kingdom without borders, the Kingdom of God.
As a takeaway from Caminemos Juntos El Paso I brought with me great encouragement, new friendships and connections, and a deep sense of joy for what God is doing all across ACNA in raising diverse and vibrant leadership and churches. It was as if I was seeing the writing on the wall clearly, but not just that. I was able to understand it and make it mine along with many others at Caminemos Juntos El Paso. I am encouraged to know that our diocese has also recognized the writing on the wall, but is going further by engaging and understanding it to make it its own.
The Rev. Carlos Pellot is pastor of Comunidad Hispana en Truro in Fairfax, Virginia.