As you know, it has been 18 months now since the Wednesday Gatherings (our Spanish service) officially started—with two people attending. Today the Wednesday Gatherings (WG) are now officially at 68 members! Of course, they don’t all show up at the same time, and half are children and youth. On any given Wednesday, we average between 40-50 in attendance, and out of that number 16-20 are children and youth doing a variety of activities in the Buckham Room. It has been such a beautiful sight to witness a group of people, 90% from North Central San Mateo, gather in a space they never imagined themselves stepping into. Now more than ever, they have embraced the space and are more and more calling it their home, their church. This means we are heading in the right direction as a church—moving away from being identified as a primarily white church, and striving to become more than a homogenous faith community in a diverse neighborhood with a large Latin American presence.
Adding a Spanish service on Wednesdays means we are swimming against the tide by embracing not only another service, but another culture. This, I believe, embraces God’s multiracial vision of the world for us. Of course, this work comes with challenges. It would be easy to remain separate congregations, to see ourselves as two separate faith communities, as two churches. However, it’s important to note that our goal, when starting this new service, has always been to do whatever it takes to be one church, a church for all people. A church with more than one service, a church that meets not only on Sunday mornings, but also on other days and other times—but is still one church.
I want to share with you one example out of many I could choose about how members from the two services joined together as one church.
On June 15, on the front lawn of our church, members from both the Sunday and Wednesday services gathered for a press conference and vigil to honor the life of Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, a young Guatemalan woman who was shot dead by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in May as she was making her way to the U.S. to work to pay for her education. The youth and one of the adults from the WG, Rev. Penny, and myself shared how our faith values uphold the inherent worth and human dignity of each person. We expressed that our church, as a faith community, condemns the immoral and inhumane treatment of people, whether such treatment takes the form of CBP indiscriminately killing migrants, or tearing away migrant children from their families and placing them in cage-like “holding facilities.” This press conference/vigil was the first time both services came together to speak against injustice and it illustrated that it is possible to come together to fight for the common good whether you speak only English or only Spanish. The first step is just showing up.
The WG is another service in the life of this church. It is not another church; it is not Jorge’s church. These children and youth are not Jorge’s children and youth. It is the church of this people, just as it is on Sundays. My prayer is that we continue to create events that will bring both services together not only in times of crisis, but also when it’s time to laugh together, to share joy with one another, to break bread together.
There will be a variety of opportunities to connect together in the fall, in our ongoing exploration of figuring out how to be a church for all people. Two events to keep in mind are Dia De Los Muertos on November 3, and Las Posadas on December 15. I am grateful to serve as a pastor of the Congregational Church of San Mateo/Iglesia San Mateo and I look forward to continuing together to expand our worlds.
Peace and blessings!