Cultures mix at Christian Banner

4/1/2008

By Marge Cason
Special to the Advocate

Christian Banner United Methodist Church in Morton has put the United Methodist motto of "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" into action by opening its doors to Hispanics living in the community.

In so doing, its has put into practice the admonition found in Leviticus 19:34, "But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."

The Morton group began as a home Bible study led by the Rev. Goyo de la Cruz, the pastor of Trinity Hispanic Mission. This outreach project of the mission has prospered and grown to become the beginnings of a daughter church. For the past two years this group has been meeting in members' homes on Saturday nights. But the group is growing and running short on space, making the home Bible studies "cozy." The group needed a larger place to meet and also a facility where it could hold Sunday worship services.

The congregation of Christian Banner UMC and its pastor, the Rev. E. J. Shepard, offered to allow the group to use its sanctuary for Sunday morning worship services on the first and third Sundays when Christian Banner has no regularly scheduled services.

On March 9, Christian Banner welcomed a group of 13 Hispanics from Central America – who live and work in Morton – to a combined service.

Dr. Wally Cason, East Jackson District Hispanic ministries coordinator, was on hand to translate the service into Spanish. East Jackson District Superintendent Dr. Giles Lindley attended to give his blessing to the groundbreaking effort.

After several speeches by various members and the pastor to welcome the group to the church, Shepard asked the group if it would rather be called "Hispanics" or "Latinos."  Applause erupted when the guests replied that they just wanted to be called "Methodists."

Following Shepard's opening remarks, one of the Hispanic women made a short thank-you speech and prayed a passionate prayer. This was followed by an invitation by the trustees that the Hispanics were welcome to use the church kitchen.

At the end of the service everyone gathered in the front of the sanctuary and held hands for a closing prayer. The morning ended with a benediction, handshaking and hugging.