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Former presbytery executive amazed at Miami church’s turnaround

Calls Iglesia Presbiteriana Nueva Vida ‘strong, faithful and committed to the gospel’

by Arlene W. Gordon | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Rev. Dr. Arlene W. Gordon

“Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”  Psalm 150:6

MIAMI — The Scripture so eloquently phrased in Psalm 150 graced the bulletin cover as we celebrated the 38th Anniversary of New Life Presbyterian Church (Iglesia Presbiteriana Nueva Vida) in Miami on the last Sunday in April.  The church, located on Coral Way, is served by the Rev. Heidi Arencibia. I was honored to be the guest speaker for the service celebrating “Thirty-eight years of life by the grace of God!” (1981-2019).

As the history of the church was read, I recalled vividly the events that had occurred during my time as the executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Tropical Florida (a position Gordon held from 2004-10). New Life was on life support. An Administrative Commission had been assigned and the membership had declined to 20 members.

It was then that I was introduced to Rev. Arencibia and what a blessing that was. She had come to the U.S. from Cuba, where she was a professor at the seminary in Matanzas.  She was United Methodist, and I saw the opportunity to invite her to become Presbyterian.

With the help of Rev. Dr. Martin Añorga, the presbytery’s committee on ministry worked with her toward ordination. Eventually she was called to be the pastor of New Life. What a blessing for the congregation as the Hispanic population of Miami was continuing to grow.

Under Rev. Arencibia’s leadership, the congregation has grown and is thriving. “What a fellowship, what a joy divine” we had during that April Sunday at New Life! The music, the prayers and the worship demonstrated a temple — a church strong, faithful and committed to the gospel.

We gave thanks for the life of Rev. Samuel Ossorio, Rev. German Vega, Rev. Martín Añorga, Rev. Julio Delgado, Rev. Roberto Hernández, commissioned lay pastor Jacobo Guiribitey, Rev. Gustavo Astudillo and Rev. Arencibia. All of them in different ways and at different times left their marks of blessing in the life of the church.

I was humbled to be asked to be the speaker for the anniversary service and was honored to be in the presence of Rev. Añorga, who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday.  Also present were the Rev. Delgado and Rev. Dr. Héctor Méndez.

Rev. Arencibia says that she is “proud to be a Presbyterian.”  The church is growing: The 20-member congregation had over 240 people in worship on Easter Sunday.  The elders are committed to service. Rev. Arencibia says of the congregation, “we continue to walk hand in hand with the Lord, committed to Christ and his Church, to the community around us, and to the mission we have been called to do, sharing the joy of salvation as a people chosen by God.”

We often hear stories of how churches are declining.  Welcome to good news of one that is thriving and growing!

The Rev. Dr. Arlene W. Gordon is parish associate for the Korean Presbyterian Church of Miami and is the former executive presbyter in the presbyteries of Tropical Florida and Detroit.



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