Dean’s Letter: Spanish Services

Hello St. Paul’s,

Happy New Year and Happy Epiphany! We are now in the season after Epiphany, when we celebrate the recognition of the Saviour by the Gentiles, the broadening of God’s promise to include all of humanity in the plan of salvation.

Nearly 20 years ago, when John Chane served as Dean, St. Paul’s began to offer a regular service in Spanish for our Spanish-speaking neighbors. This ministry has been served by a number of clergy over the years, some Latino and some Anglo. The attendance has fluctuated, depending in part on how much time a given priest had to focus on congregational development. Until mid-2019 St. Paul’s maintained a part-time position for a bilingual priest to pastor the Spanish-speaking group. Since my arrival in 2014 the Rev. Bjorn Marcussen, the Rev. Colin Mathewson, and the Rev. Carlos Expósito have served in that capacity. However, there came a point where we could no longer afford that additional pastoral position, and I took over as primary pastor for the Spanish-speaking parishioners. At that time, a little over two years ago, the average attendance at that service was around 45.

Then the pandemic hit. Throughout 2020 and well into 2021 we offered weekly Spanish services on Zoom and Facebook live, but barely a handful of people participated. When we came back to in-person worship in May last year, we had great hopes of rebuilding the congregation, but sadly the attendance has stayed at about 12-15 including staff. We have tried various types of publicity to bring in new families: banners, newspaper ads, Facebook posts, and flyers on car windshields, but we have not been successful in attracting new members orin luring back most of the former members. The faithful few who have continued to attend are burned out and discouraged. A few weeks ago we got together to discuss what to do. The upshot of that meeting was a decision to discontinue the weekly service, for now, in favor of periodic cultural celebrations, which we hope will attract both Latino and Anglo families. Several of our major feast days will include a bilingual service too.

It makes my heart ache to let go of the dream of a flourishing Spanish-speaking ministry, in this cathedral that is so close to the Mexican border, but it simply doesn’t make sense to keep doing what is evidently not working. I hope that the offering of festival celebrations, with special music and food, will ultimately build interest in a more regular service, but only God knows if that will happen. It may be that our call is to provide a spiritual home for the many families that have Latino connections but speak English at home: we are already seeing an increase in such families at our 10:30 service.

I cannot express how grateful I am for the faithful efforts of the leaders of our Spanish-speaking group: Chapter members Martha Curatolo and Gladis Jimenez, preacher Orlando Espin, pastoral assistant Salvador Arce Guerra, musicians Alex and Tanya Tapia, children’s minister Maya Little-Saña, usher and altar guild Ricardo Diaz, Karla Chavez, the Hernandez family, and the Guido Gutierrez family, who brought their eldest daughter Pamela to be baptized 18 years ago when the Spanish service first began and still attend regularly to serve as acolytes. They have persevered, supported, and encouraged this ministry, and they share my sadness at this necessary change. So, we will celebrate la Misa en español on January 16 at 1 pm, then there will be a bilingual 10:30 service on January 23 for the annual meeting, then at 1 pm on January 30 and February 6; and after that there will be about a half-dozen festivals in the course of the year when we will offer a celebration in Spanish.

The schedule of Spanish-language and bilingual services for 2022 is included in the manuscript of this message and you can find it on the Spanish-language pages of our website. I hope you will join us for one or more of them. The service bulletins are all bilingual and the music is wonderful. All are on Sundays unless otherwise indicated.

See you on Sunday!
Your sister in Christ,
Penny

January 16 at 1 pm
January 23 at 10:30 am bilingual
January 30 at 1:00 pm
Candelaria/Presentación February 6 at 1:00 pm
Ash Wednesday March 2 at 7 pm (bilingual)
Funeral for Padre Bjorn Marcussen, Saturday, March 12 at 1 pm
Palm Sunday April 10 at 1 pm
Maundy Thursday April 14 at 7 pm (bilingual)
Good Friday April 15 at 7 pm (bilingual)
Easter April 17 at 1:00 pm
Mothers’ Day/Day of the Child May 8 at 1:00 pm
Pentecost June 5 at 10:30 am (bilingual)
Festival of Central American Independence September 18 at 1 pm
Dia de muertos Wednesday November 2 at 7 pm
La Virgen de Guadalupe Monday December 12 at 7 pm

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