Latinx members celebrate, invite UCC allies to their Nov. 13 assembly
Latinx members of the United Church of Christ and their allies have much to celebrate:
- Four new ministers, and another soon to be ordained.
- The first Latinx woman to become a Conference minister.
- A major assembly, or asemblea, coming on Nov. 13.
And celebrate they did, on Oct. 16. They marked the end of Latinx Heritage Month, which was Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, with an online worship service, “Caminemos Juntes,” or “Walking Together.” The Colectivo de UCC Latinx Ministries and the UCC’s Latinx LGBTQ ministry, Encuentros Latinx, co-hosted the event. The one-hour service is now available on YouTube.
In the words of that new Conference minister — the Rev. Lorraine Ceniceros — it was a celebration of “who we are in all of our diversity and complexities.”
‘Complexities’ of Latinx journeys
Ceniceros, who takes office in the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference Jan. 1, noted in her sermon that she herself is an example of those complexities. She described:
- Her years as a child in a white, affluent church in California. Her presence there eventually made people feel “noticeably uncomfortable.”
- Her teenage interest in her Mexican-American, or Chicanx, heritage. It was short-lived. Her parents, who had lived through a violent time for immigrants, “couldn’t understand why their daughter would want to claim an identity they tried to move their children away from.”
- Her parents’ desire for their children to assimilate. “For my siblings and I, English was our first and only language. Our parents reserved Spanish as their private language, often switching to Spanish when we kids were not supposed to know what they were talking about.”
- Her discovery of the UCC, and her call to the ministry, as an adult in Arizona.
- Her recent rediscovery of that Chicanx identity and voice.
And while Latinx people are “incredibly diverse,” there are things they can’t escape sharing, Ceniceros said. Being made to feel “otherness” is one of them. “All of us living in the United States who identify as Latinx or Hispanic, no matter our — or our ancestors’ — country of origin, have personal stories of discrimination which are similar.”
“Whether our families came to this country as exiles because of political strife in their homeland, or to seek safety and economic opportunities for their families, or the borders moved to include our ancestors within the United States, we all are considered outsiders, no matter how many generations have passed,” she said.
Affirming Latinx cultures in all their goodness — “for inspiration and courage” — is a good reason for Latinx UCC people and their allies to gather, Ceniceros said. “We are here,” she said. “We belong, and we are on the move.”
A big step in that movement will take place Saturday, Nov. 13, at 2 p.m. ET. That’s when the Colectivo will hold its first official assembly, or asemblea. The online event, to be held via Zoom, is open to all. People will be able to register soon at the Colectivo website and via its Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The assembly will elect officers to succeed a transition team that has been “visioning” the Colectivo’s future ever since a key 2019 General Synod vote. An ongoing membership drive has been leading up to the assembly. The Rev. Linda Jaramillo, a retired national officer of the UCC, chaired the transition team. She said the new officers will “take charge and set the course for the next two or three years of programming and focus.”
Five new ministers
Also celebrated during the Oct. 16 event were recent or forthcoming ordinations of Latinx UCC ministers. They are:
- Roberto Ochoa, UCC program associate for congregations of color and ethnic identified congregations. His ordination service will be Oct. 24 at Mt. Zion Congregational Church, UCC, Cleveland.
- The Rev. Jon Gilbert Martinez, designated-term pastor, First Congregational Church, UCC, Evanston, Ill. Ordination service was Oct. 3 at Christ Church UCC, Des Plaines, Ill.
- The Rev. Marcelino Rivera, pastor of La Iglesia del Pueblo (Windermere Union Church), UCC, Windermere, Fla. Ordination service was there on Sept. 19.
- The Rev. Yadi Martinez Reyna, associate pastor, New Church–Chiesa Nuova UCC, Dallas. Ordination was there on July 25.
- The Rev. Yinessa Romero, a chaplain in the Dallas area. Ordination was June 13 at Catedral de Esperanza (Cathedral of Hope) UCC, Dallas.
“We are the hope,” Ceniceros said in her sermon. “Together we will provide the ones coming up with support and help so all of us can take our rightful place in the Kin-dom of God.”
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