Bringing Those on the Margins Back to Center

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This is the fifth of a series of follow up reports by Acts 8 on the recipients of Church Planting grants funded through The Episcopal Church budget. The $100,000 grants are matched by local money to make new church starts possible to communities that would not otherwise have the resources to start a new congregation. Brad Bates reports here on Our Lady of Guadalupe, Seattle, which received a grant from the 2012-2015 budget of the church.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Episcopal Church, Seattle, is a bicultural, bilingual, progressive Latino ministry in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Bolstered by a contribution from the Episcopal Church and a matching endowment from the Diocese of Olympia, the Rev. Alfredo Feregrino planted the Our Lady of Guadalupe congregation in 2014 with a focus on urban Latinos, new-generation Latinos, while also reaching Anglos and non-Latinos.

Our Lady of Guadalupe takes Latino culture and traditions and put them in the midst of Anglo-Catholic worship. They celebrate five Latino cultural festivals each year – Cinco de Mayo, Fiestas Patrias, Dia de Muertos, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Las Posadas and Pastorelas – while incorporating artistic elements of faith and spirituality throughout the liturgical year. This approach can appeal to Latinos and many of whom have never heard of the Episcopal Church, as well as long-time Episcopalians, even if they speak little or no Spanish. All are welcomed and feel loved at our Lady of Guadalupe.

Feregrino was the first Latino ordained in his diocese, and is currently the only church planter. He his ministry is one of radical inclusion and hospitality to men and women who may find themselves socially and economically marginalized. “The goal,” he says, “is to bring those who are out on the margins back to the center,” which is why the Virgin of Guadalupe was selected as the patron saint. The Virgin of Guadalupe is “a symbol of unity that ties perfectly with the mission of the church, which as stated in the Book of Common Prayer’s catechism, is ‘to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ’” (p. 855).

“Unity is the core of my theology,” said Feregrino, “which finds its roots in two specific biblical passages. The first is Jesus’ Prayer for unity found in the Gospel of John, which conveys the idea that Jesus kept believers in their faith through divine power: ‘Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one’ (17:11, NRSV).

ourlady3“The second passage is Paul’s letter to the Galatians: ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (3:28). Paul is declaring the distinctions of race, social status, and gender, which may generally divide people, no longer apply to those in Christ. A new creation is possible; one in which ethnic distinctions no longer matter because we all are one in Christ. It is not that people cease to be male or female; rather, these distinctions are not grounds for exclusion from the life that God offers all persons in Christ. This is not only what I believe as a steward of God’s mysteries, but this is the foundation of the theology of our ministry. Furthermore, this is the reason everybody is welcome to the table at Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a small congregation that shares worship space with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Feregrino appreciates this relationship. “Although difficulties can and often do arise when sharing space with another church, not having our own building is a good thing because we do not have to worry about expenses associated with owning a building.” Moreover, without permanent building, Our Lady of Guadalupe is better able to “foster unity with other congregations in the community. Not having a facility to limit us to one location gives us more of an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community. Instead of focusing on numbers and rooms, we are able to concentrate on the mission of transforming people into mature disciples for Christ.”

When asked what information, or bits of wisdom, he might pass on to people thinking of planting a church, Feregrino discussed the importance of thinking a plan through, understanding the theology of ministry, and having the willingness to work with different people. “The oneness of the church is a sign and witness to the world that Jesus was who he said he was. The implications of getting this wrong are significant. Therefore, by building bridges of radical hospitality and inclusion, we can all participate in God’s dream of unity where everyone is not only invited to the table, but also able to experience the source of love that is indiscriminate, abundant, and unconditional. Most importantly, though, be humble enough to understand you are not in control. It is God’s church,” he reminds us, “and it will make it with or without you.”

For more information, visit Our Lady of Guadalupe’s website, www.ourladyofguadalupeseattle.org

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