Reflections from the GNW Encuentro and the next steps ahead for Hispanic/Latinx ministries


By Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos

Hispanic/Latinx leaders from the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area (GNW Area) participated in our “Encuentro de Lideres” last weekend. The theme for the event was: ¿How to be a Reconciling Community?” Mas amor…Menos odio…

It was a time of renewal, refocus and reconciliation. After a long time separated by the Covid pandemic, we finally had the opportunity to be in a meeting altogether. As the Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministries, I finished the event full of hope for our accomplishments. The event offered a strong message and invitation to celebrate our Wesleyan roots as United Methodists. It was a time to show our pride for the beloved expression, The United Methodist Church, and make stronger connections with our beloved LGBTQ+ siblings. On occasion, this left some a little uncomfortable. Still, at the same time, the experience created a space to discuss how to create and develop Hispanic/Latinx churches and ministries that are more inclusive. 

I want to highlight this statement by our Brother in Christ Leo Bishop DeDios: “The system is made up of people, and people are not perfect. As The United Methodist Church, we must ask ourselves: Do we need to make changes?”

Encuentro was a Holy time, and the answer is yes, we need to create opportunities for changes because changes can produce transformation and room for something new and necessary to serve our marginalized communities. 

As Hispanic/Latinx people, we have been absent not because we are not real but instead for the absence of places that recognize us as a vital part of the mission and ministry of our beloved United Methodist Church. Here in the GNW Area, we are blessed with the leadership of Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth, who is open to changes that will be helpful to our community, allowing us to be seen and to participate in decisions that affect our faith communities.

First, we are so grateful and happy to learn that the bishop is creating space to have a Hispanic/Latinx voice on the Cabinet that will represent our growing community and will serve as a cultural interpreter. Second, we welcome his invitation to develop an area-wide strategic plan for developing Hispanic/Latinx Ministries. We are so ready for this work because we have been waiting for this for a long time. 

Rev. Dr. Lydia Munoz, Executive Director of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latinx Ministry, was among the presenters at the GNW Encuentro of H/L Leaders. Photo by Kai Yamamoto.

At Encuentro, we also had the participation of Rev. Dr. Lydia Munoz, Executive Director of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latinx Ministry. With Lydia’s support, we will be sure that our area-wide strategic plan will reflect who we are as The UMC in establishing Hispanic/Latinx communities and ministries. In her words, “We are The UMC, and we are proud of our heritage, traditions and values the National Plan promotes.”

To culminate this fantastic weekend, we celebrated the dedication of a new building for “Palabra Viviente UMC.” I remember when I was hired to work as the Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministries, one of the first projects I got involved in was the design process relating to the construction of this new building. I want to be honest that when I visited the site for the first time, I told my wife Alma that I didn’t know how they could convert a Car Emission building into a church. We began the process with many meetings, translations, trips, designs, and colors to pick and things to decide, but all working together with the PNW Board of Trustees, we were successful. I am so grateful to the help of Rev. David Valera, DS Rev. Mark Galang and Brant Henshaw for listening to our community and making us feel part of the process. 

Thank you, Pastor Jose Pacheco, for your many hours of work and always being able to cooperate with me during the whole process. You are a blessing to us, and I pray that you will continue using your gifts to make this church a more vital place where many people from our community can be transformed as disciples of Christ to make a difference in the world. 

Now that we see the final product, we thank God for this place! This building was designed to be a perfect center where our community can feel welcomed and invited. Please join me in praying for our community, for our immigrant families, for our new faith communities, for our new church planters, for our new lay missioners, and for all the leaders that will continue working together to have effective Hispanic/Latinx Ministries that will help our growing community to connect with God. 

To God be the Glory, Amen!

Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos serves as Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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