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Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri closes out Secret Sauce conference with an ancestral recipe

‘The Holy Spirit has been on the move, cooking and brewing and simmering and searing life and ministry,’ she preaches

by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service

Worshipers stand during the Secret Sauce conference’s final worship. (Photo by Beth Waltemath)

ATLANTA — The “What’s the Secret Sauce?” conference wrapped up at North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta April 27 with a multilingual worship led by leaders of new worshiping communities from around the country.

The conference was “an invitation to rest, to discover and explore stories that needed to be told, stories of us — immigrant leaders, their churches and our efforts to be alongside stories of God on the move in a new era,” said Ruling Elder and Co-Moderator of the 223rd General Assembly (2018) Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, who preached on Hebrews 12:1–3 in a sermon titled “Faith Legacy from the Kitchen.”

A multicultural praise band leads the closing worship of the Secret Sauce conference with original songs about “Ubuntu — we are together.” (Photo by Beth Waltemath)

“Our leaders have indeed shared this beautiful, difficult point — moving stories, stories of faith that have changed life stories that have defined path stories that are living testimonies of how the Holy Spirit has been on the move, cooking and brewing and simmering and searing life and ministry,” said Cintrón-Olivieri, who recognized all the formal and informal contributions as “ingredients sprinkled into the secret sauce of worshiping communities.”

Cintrón-Olivieri told the story of her grandmother, who learned to cook at age 5 in Puerto Rico during the 1920s and nourished a large extended family and a church that she helped to plant throughout her 99 years. “She was one of the most spiritual people I have ever known. Her life and her witness influence her family and her faith family, passing along not only a strong work ethic, founded in a life of service, but also a faith legacy that trusts in the generations, rooted in an unwavering trust in God and perseverance in the most difficult of times.” The Hebrews passage recalling the “cloud of witnesses” who teach us perseverance is an invitation for us to remember our ancestors, said Cintrón-Olivieri, “los ancesteros, those ancestors, the communion of saints, those who have already run the race and having reached the finish line are now cheering on the ones that are still running — that’s the new worshiping community.”

Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri preaches during closing worship at the Secret Sauce conference. (Photo by Beth Waltemath)

Cintrón-Olivieri invited those gathered to turn to their neighbors and share the name and story of an ancestor in faith who may be cheering them on in their current ministry.

After sharing communion of various sweet and sticky rice treats, those gathered circled the sanctuary and sang “Ubuntu — we are together. When you laugh, I will laugh with you. When you cry, I will cry with you. When you pray, I will pray with you. When you wait, I will wait with you. I am because we are. We are because of Christ.”

The final benediction was also sung in the circle as the worshipers offered final words of blessings to each other, singing, “May the love of God flow through you.”

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