Recently a suburban congregation in Upstate New York invited a Hispanic fellowship to join them for worship and a meal. The Hispanic mission provides a Spanish language outreach to immigrants, including an after-school tutoring program. The sponsoring church provides financial support for the missionary pastor. Suburban youth and their mentors work with Hispanic children who are attempting to read and write in a new language.
The Hispanic missionary pastor led worship. All the hymns were of Hispanic origin and unfamiliar to the Anglos. The congregation sang, prayed, and heard Scripture read in English and in Spanish. The pastor preached with sincerity, struggling to express her deep gratitude and respect for the Anglo congregation. Her message was punctuated with “Amens.” The Hispanic congregation responded with beaming smiles, although they understood little of her English language ser-mon. In spite of being challenged by their inexperience with one another’s language, everyone attempted conversation during the fellowship time after worship.
The mostly white, middle-class congregation sensed the warmth of faith and love for God that their urban neighbors lived. The Hispanics had almost nothing, yet they shared generously. The Anglos had prepared a luncheon. The Hispanics created a fiesta.
How might an exchange between two faith groups in your community build bridges of cooperation and mutual respect?