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News: Hispanic/Latino Lay Academy05-25-2011
What is it like to be a part of history? I am still asking myself that question. Because when you’re in the middle of history, events and people seem to come together at the right time, for the right purpose. Putting together the first Hispanic/Latino Lay Speakers Academy was a prayer realized and dream come true. I just can’t believe a dream along with the prayers of many others could lead to the making of a historical event - a program taught in Spanish with Hispanic/Latino facilitators, Spanish curriculum, food and worship.
I also did not realize that such an event would become part of our Jurisdictional history. According to our Elgin District Superintendent, Rev. Oscar Carrasco, this was the first Hispanic/ Latino Lay Speakers program of its kind, not only within our District, but for the Northern Illinois Conference and perhaps even within the Jurisdiction.
Most District Lay Academies have one or two classes taught in Spanish. The Elgin District had offered the Basic Course in Spanish in February 2010, and had lukewarm success. I struggled to think of a way to attract more Hispanic and Latinos to our Lay Academy courses. One year later, Rev. Oscar Carrusco introduced me to Pastor Mario Mayer and his wife Fabiola Grandon-Mayer of El Mesias UMC. They also had ideas for developing leadership training for there Hispanic/ Latino congregation. Together we further developed a full Lay Academy in Spanish. God had answered my prayer in a big way. Though I do not speak Spanish, I did not let that stop me. I muddled through.
The Lay Academy was appropriately held at El Mesias UMC located, in Elgin, IL. This church is in the process of documenting its rich Hispanic/ Latino Hispanic/ Latino history. El Mesias is one of a few Hispanic/ Latino churches that does not share its facilities with another United Methodist Church congregation.
And so the Lay Speakers Academy’s first session opened on May 14 with special guest speaker, Bishop Joel Martinez, retired bishop from Rio Grande Conference. Bishop Martinez shared some of the interesting stories and interviews he will use to document the history of the Hispanic/ Latino movement within the United Methodist Church. As part of this history project, his documentation will be placed in a time capsule. He also answered questions and offered advice about real life challenges faced by Hispanic/ Latino United Methodist Churches today.
Since this was the first all Hispanic/ Latino Lay Speakers Academy, we will make sure Bishop Joel Martinez receives a copy of all the facilitators notes and outlines, so that this material may be included in his time capsule project. The other seven facilitators presented rich information about the United Methodist church and the purpose to which God calls us.
The second and concluding session happened on Saturday, May 21 2011. A special worship service was held to celebrate the graduates of the Hispanic/ Latino Lay Speakers Academy and the graduates of the Conference Academy for Faith Community Development. The incredible worship service included - praise dancers, contemporary worship music and amazing food.
This combined graduation celebration included a dinner with our Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, the graduates and their families. District Superintendent Rev. Oscar Carrusco offered a challenging message to the graduates. Bishop Hee-Soo Jung prayed for the graduates and presented the final sending forth address. The benediction was delivered by Rockford District Superintendent Rev. Ouk-Yean Kim Jueng.
The 45 graduates, from both academies and their families are excited about Gods call and the Northern Illinois Conference commitment to develop more Hispanic/ Latino ministries and communities of faith. The graduates of the Conference Academy for Faith Community Development expressed their gratitude to Rev. Martin Lee, the Director of Congregational Development for all they learned during their two-year long journey in this program. Many of the graduates spoke of the spiritual disciplines they had learned, the ideas they shared, and the exciting field trips to other churches. Martin Lee was happy to present to Bishop Hee-Soo Jung these new Harvest 2020 graduates.
This could not have happened with out the help of Pastor Mario Mayer and his wife, Judy Siaba, Administrative Assistant to the Office of Congregational Development; Bonnie Barbara, Lay Academy Registrar and District Superintendent, Rev. Oscar Carrusco. And I would like to especially thank the Pastors who donated their time and talents to facilitate the Academy classes.
God did answer my prayer to have a Hispanic/ Latino Lay Speakers Academy. So be careful what you pray for as the saying goes, you just might get it. The graduates are ready to seize the world for God; I can't help but think that God is well pleased. And I think he is especially happy with the collaboration of the many different hands and feet that had to work together to make this event happen. That is the church at its best - working together for equipping and furthering of others.
Peace, Karen Sersen- Elgin District Lay Speakers Academy Director.