UCC Loves People Through Online Hispanic Ministries
The COVID-19 plague arrived, and it was recommended we cease congregating in our church buildings. We quickly figured out this was going to be long and tedious experience, so our Hispanic pastors, along with their Upper Columbia Conference administrators and the North Pacific Union Conference vice president for Hispanic ministry began to meet every morning on Zoom to pray for the integrated well-being of our people (health, jobs, families, children, education, finances, homes, etc.).
After praying for the safety of our communities every morning, we analyzed the logistical challenges in each of our ministry regions, brainstormed ideas and developed new ways to continue doing church. In just a few days, each pastor, along with their leaders, had developed creative ideas to serve his district. Slowly, every pastor who started out doing “their own thing” became part of an “our thing” collective ministry project.
Two spiritual emphasis weeks were quickly organized. Eight local pastors, NPUC vice president César De León and UCC president Minner Labrador Jr. preached. During those two weeklong series, our Hispanic communities experienced the support, and motivation and the joy of congregating online. This collective experience spearheaded the development of two very relevant ministries for this season: HispanosUCC and Make Your Home a Church. Both of these ministries were developed by the grace of God and the support of the NPUC Hispanic department and the UCC administration.
Today, the majority of our churches are worshipping online. Our pastors have become experienced online preachers, and our small group leaders continue to experience the blessings of having made their “home a church.”
Two ministries in particular are transforming our way of doing church during the coronavirus pandemic.
HispanosUCC: This a media ministry coordinated by Christian Barrera, pastor, and his pastoral team, who have excelled in the areas of graphic and media design. Other team members have contributed with preaching, evangelism and diverse programming. HispanosUCC transmits daily programming from the same city — Granger, Washington — where the Hispanic work in UCC began in 1970. They currently have more than 1,000 Facebook subscribers and about 200 YouTube listeners, for a daily average audience of 500 to 1000 connections per program. We are transmitting simultaneously via several platforms with the objective of ministering to our Hispanic community throughout our diverse Upper Columbia region. Our current broadcast schedule is 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily and Sabbaths, 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Our 7 p.m. programming includes a diversity of topics including family ministries, men’s ministries, NextGen, women’s ministries, Sabbath School, seminars on preaching and public evangelism, spiritual emphasis, and Bible studies.
Small group ministry: Our sanctuaries may be closed but a good number of our congregations are meeting in small group settings. Yonisbel Osoria is our small group ministries coordinator and has been training our group leaders and their small congregations for the past two years in the skills of “making each home a church.”
Those churches that joined this new ministry before the COVID-19 restrictions have felt very blessed indeed. Some group leaders have shared they don’t miss the mother congregation since their home-based groups have filled the life of their members in an effective way that fills their hearts and feeds their souls with spiritual leadership. Our small groups continue to provide a venue for worship and fellowship as well as a community to collectively fulfill Christ’s commission in the context of our UCC “One More” initiative.