San Diego County and its surrounding areas are home to a large number of Latinos/Hispanics, yet most of the Episcopal churches in the Diocese of San Diego have a proportionately low number of Latino/Hispanic members. Recognizing this as a sign that we could do more to reach this population, the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego applied for and received a grant from the Mission Enterprise Zone of the Episcopal Church for a leadership training program.
Last year, the diocese began working with San Diego State University’s Consensus Organizing Center to develop a program that would serve to identify and train Latino/Hispanic members of the Episcopal Church. The consensus organizing approach is a community organizing method used to connect previously disjointed groups to form positive partnerships. Rather than using a style of conflict organizing, which dictates one party must win while the other loses, consensus organizers believe that all parties should win. This is done by identifying the self-interests of collaborative partners and developing goals that fulfill all parties’ self-interests.
The diocese held a consensus organizing training at the Episcopal Church Center in January, which 38 people attended. The training provided resources and support for Latino/Hispanic leaders in the Episcopal Church, and in so doing, created space for increased Latino/Hispanic participation and growth in our church. This group of leaders meets every other month to share experiences and what they’re learning from practicing these skills in their congregations.
One participant, Roberto Thais, member of St. Paul, Palm Springs, said the training “gave real meaning to the word, ‘fellowship.’ We often speak about ‘ community,’ and ‘inclusiveness,’ but those are often just words and concepts. Action, like the training, really show how much of a fellowship we are in serving Christ by serving others. Tuyo soy, Señor!”
The aim of the project is to support the development of a sustainable community of congregational leaders who are able to implement plans and activities that are culturally relevant and inviting to Latino/Hispanics. The Rev. Colin Mathewson, curate at St. Paul’s Cathedral, observed that “this project has created an exciting energy around what is possible in diocesan Latino ministry.” He looks forward to “watching our newly encouraged leaders work together on ministry offerings for our region’s many Latinos.” +
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