Despite tension and polarization in church and society, Hispanic Latin Presbyterian Women (MHLP, in the Spanish acronym) came together recently under the theme “Connect . . . Grow . . . Serve” for their triennial assembly. Almost 200 Spanish-speaking Presbyterian women from congregations in the United States and Puerto Rico gathered in Fort Worth, Texas, to celebrate Encuentro VIII.
“Now more than ever, as tensions and divisions in church and society seem to intensify, we are aware of the need to connect with our faith, with our calling as messengers of good news, with our sisters around the country and in Latin America, and to work together for the healing of relationships, families, communities, and the world,” said ruling elder Ruth Román-Meza, newly elected moderator of MHLP and a native of the Dominican Republic who lives in Dallas.
Participants explored the theme in three plenary sessions, all led by Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace, executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Philadelphia. “Jesus models for us a theology of the table, where everyone is welcomed, given voice, nurtured, and valued, and this is a key metaphor that should inform our ministry,” she said during the opening keynote presentation. “The table is the place where we connect, grow, and learn to serve one another, but we need to overcome multiple challenges in order to do so, and we must be willing to take risks.”
Encuentro included an array of workshops on topics such as Reformed faith, spirituality and self-care, family systems, leadership development, and justice issues affecting women globally. “We have come a long way in recognizing the ministries of women,” said ruling elder Florence Vargas, “but much work remains to be done to fully affirm women as equal partners—especially women of color—in church and society.”
The first Encuentro was held in 1995 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with subsequent national conferences held every three years in various cities around the country. Regional Encuentros are held the year after the national conference in order to share the learning and to strengthen the MHLP networks.
The voting delegates at Encuentro VIII approved several resolutions, including one calling on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) “to seek and demonstrate the visible unity of the totality of the Body of Christ,” words that echo the Belhar Confession.
Participants also renewed their commitment to expand the organization’s circle of leadership by dedicating the offering toFondo Adelante: Idalisa Fernández and Yolanda S. Hernández, a scholarship fund for MHLP established in 2001 in honor of two mentors. Several women have already benefited from the fund.
Echoing scenes and words from the Broadway musical Hamilton—“¡No paren, sigan, sigan!” (“Don’t stop, keep going!”)—and recalling the biblical mandate “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God,” Santana-Grace sent participants out with the challenge to “not grow weary of working for the transformation of church and society, and to resist the temptation to flee during times of conflict.”
Magdalena I. García, PC(USA) Pastor and Presbyterians Today Blogger
Today’s Focus: Presbytery of Philadelphia
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Let us pray
Lord God, remind us that the tables we gather around are not ours, but yours. Give us your eyes to see beyond borders, languages, and denominations, until we see all shoulder to shoulder, worshiping and serving to your glory. Amen.