This is the ninth in a series of reports on initiatives funded through the budget of The Episcopal Church in its grants to Mission Enterprise Zones. Acts 8 Moment also has a series of reports on those receiving Church Planting Grants.
On the westside of Los Angeles there is a compact community called Palms that is known to have a dense and diverse population. At the intersection of Watseka Avenue and Faris Drive you will find St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Due to Palms’ dense population, St. Mary’s plays a vital role by hosting the only hispanic service within five miles of the church. Folks can attend a Spanish mass on Sundays at 1:00 pm along with English speaking services throughout the week as well.
With 40% of the congregation being hispanic, it is hard to ignore the need for a ministry dedicated to this population. With the grant money St. Mary’s was able to hire a quarter time priest. So far St. Mary’s has received half of the grant. The grant pays for the Rev. Juan Barragan’s salary and for other expenses. These expenses include things like educational materials and musicians. The grant is simply allowing St. Mary’s to keep this existing ministry going under the leadership of a new priest.
In regards to this ministry, it’s all hands on deck. Since Barragan is only there for a quarter of the time, he emphasizes the importance of support from the congregation. Through a dedicated network of volunteers, they help each other to do everything. Barragan notes that they are a young congregation in which they offer their time and are eager to help. They work together to go over financial needs, prepare bulletins, and music. Volunteers will also host yard sales, youth lots, and sell meals after mass to fundraise for other aspects of the ministry.
As of right now, there about 25 to 35 people attending the Spanish Mass on Sundays along with Sunday School and Christian Education. By going to door to door and visiting supermarkets and handing out information, Barragan insists it is the most ideal way to invite people to church. He explains that, “they come to the church because they feel the necessity to be a part of God’s Kingdom.” This is evident in their eagerness to love God and their neighbors. As purported by their website, “St. Mary’s congregation is small in number and large in love for God, for one another, and for all of God’s creation.”
One way to share God’s love is to welcome people by making church a more personal experience. Barragan does this by reassuring congregants, “you are not a number in the church, you are a person that we care about.” An interesting way of communicating this message is through the phone. Through this outreach tool, Barragan is able to take pastoral care to another level, with Facebook, texts, phone calls, and the Internet. This seems like evidence that the Kingdom of God can happen here and now, at the speed of light.