He didn't realize it at the time, but when the Rev. Héctor López was ordained in 1966 at Plymouth UCC in Oakland, Calif., he became the first Hispanic in the United States (excluding Puerto Rico) to be ordained in the UCC, formed in 1957.
In 1996, when López - a Mexican American - accepted the call to be Conference Minister in the Central Pacific Conference, he became the UCC's first Hispanic Conference Minister in the United States.
Today, although Latinos/as are the largest ethnic minority in the United States, the UCC's Hispanic membership remains less than one percent of total UCC membership.
In order to meet the pastoral challenge of this burgeoning Hispanic population, the UCC's Council for Hispanic Ministries has announced a new scholarship fund for Latinos and Latinas to attend UCC seminaries.
The fund, first announced at López's retirement festivities, is named The Rev. Héctor López Scholarship Fund.
"We couldn't think of a more appropriate way to honor Héctor than a scholarship fund to develop future Hispanic leaders for the UCC," says the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries. "Héctor has already been a mentor and leader to many persons, Hispanics and others alike. He's shown a visible and courageous commitment to the UCC and to our identity as a church of liberation theologies."
Indeed, rather than hold a typical retirement party, López's last official act was to convene a four-day national convocation: "God Is Still Seeking Racial Justice."
More than 175 persons gathered in Portland, Ore., for the event, held Nov. 10-13, 2005.
Keynote speaker the Rev. Paul H. Sherry, former UCC president, challenged participants to exercise a transforming and courageous love as they work toward racial justice.
Other speakers represented every racial/ethnic group within the UCC and every aspect of López's ministry across 40 years.
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Speeches and sermons from the Convocation on Racial Justice are posted at cpcucc.org.
For more information or to contribute to "The Rev. Héctor López Scholarship Fund for Latino and Latina UCC Seminarians," contact CHM Scholarship Initiative, c/o Peter Barbosa, P.O. Box 14010, San Francisco, CA 94114-0010; 415/509-7049; CHMscholarship@aol.com.