Latino Episcopalians express hope for church’s future at Nuevo Amanecer

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted Jun 7, 2024

Three hundred Latino Episcopalians attended the 2024 Nuevo Amanecer conference, which took place June 3-6 at Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Photo: The Episcopal Church’s Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries/Facebook

[Episcopal News Service service – Hendersonville, North Carolina] The Episcopal Church isn’t “dying,” but instead “the demographics are changing,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris and the Rev. Anthony Guillén, the church’s Latino/Hispanic Ministries’ missioner, all told Episcopal News Service during the 2024 Nuevo Amanecer, or “new dawn,” conference.

“If people go out and visit the Latino congregations, they will see there’s a vibrancy, that there’s creativity,” Guillén said. “They’ll see that it’s intergenerational; they’ll see that there’s lively music; they’ll see that Latinos are engaged with the community and are willing to share the many gifts that they can offer.”

Three hundred Latino Episcopalians gathered June 3-6 at Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center for Nuevo Amanecer, a churchwide conference that celebrates and supports Latino ministries in The Episcopal Church. The church’s Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries has been hosting the popular biennial event since 2008. This year’s theme was “Sembrando Amor y Esperanza,” or “Sowing Love and Hope.”

“Nuevo Amanecer is a space for Latinos to share resources, to also talk about what their successes, challenges are. It’s an opportunity to network and an opportunity to see what other dioceses and Latino lay leaders and clergy are doing so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Karla Sikaffy duPlantier, Latino/Hispanic Ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Louisiana, told ENS. “Nuevo Amanecer is also an amazing support system. We uplift one another.”

Nuevo Amanecer includes training for church leadership and formation, as well as information about Latino ministries in The Episcopal Church and special activities for young adults and children. All programming is bilingual. The conference is also a networking and discipleship opportunity for Latinos, who make up about an estimated 2% of the church.

“For me, the name Nuevo Amanecer means that our churches can live into the hope of the savior, his prayer that we all may be one and that we can seize on to his prayer,” the Rev. José Rodríguez, rector of Christ the King Episcopal Church and vicar of Iglesia Episcopal Jesús de Nazaret, both in Orlando, Florida, told Episcopal News Service.

“If we could fulfill his desire for us to be one with everyone he sends our way, that is our new hope,” said Rodríguez, who’s also co-chair of the Diocese of Central Florida’s Hispanic Commission. “That is our new beginning, and we will no longer be in a dusk-and-night situation, but we will be in a new dawn and hopefully in a place where light shines eternally.”

Curry preached June 3 during Nuevo Amanecer’s opening worship service. The service reflected various aspects of Latin American culture, starting as a traditional Mass with incense and ending as a fiesta. Curry sang with parishioners as a spontaneous dance party erupted in front of the altar during Communion.

“There’s high church with cleansing incense, which is so beautiful and symbolic, and then dancing and singing is the Holy Spirit coming through you, which is a full human spiritual experience,” said Ayala Harris, who became the first Latina and woman of color to be elected president of the House of Deputies in 2022. “This is what authentically celebrating together looks like, and it’s happening in a Latino conference on an Episcopal campground where families and children are welcome.”

Children play at Nuevo Amanecer, a biennial churchwide conference that celebrates and supports Latino ministries in The Episcopal Church. Nuevo Amanecer 2024 took place June 3-6, at Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Photo: The Episcopal Church’s Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries/Facebook

The conference’s first full day began June 4 with a plenary hosted by Ayala Harris, who also presented a workshop on leadership in The Episcopal Church the following day. 

“I’ve had so many people, especially women, come up and tell me how much they identify with [Ayala Harris’] story, how she inspired them,” Guillén said.

Ayala Harris said there are still “a lot of barriers” for Latino leadership in The Episcopal Church, noting she’s heard from others that it’s sometimes hard for Latinos to clear the hurdles to ordained ministry

Yet, the Latino and Hispanic populations continue to grow nation- and churchwide. 

“The day I was elected, someone said that the last Episcopalian had already been born. That will never be the case because the future Episcopalians are being born in Honduras or Mexico, because the future of The Episcopal Church is multicultural and multiracial,” she said.

During the second plenary on June 4, San Joaquin Bishop David Rice said Latinos make up the fastest-growing population in the diocese. For this reason, he said, bilingualism is important in diocesan leadership.

“In less than two years’ time, when I retire … it is my deepest prayer and my hope that my successor will, in fact, be bilingual,” he said during the plenary. “We’re looking for a cathedral dean. …That cathedral dean needs to be bilingual. We have much, much work to do.”

The June 5 schedule started with a plenary, where Guillén addressed the history and future of Nuevo Amanecer and Latino/Hispanic Ministries. The Very Rev. Miguelina Howell, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut, spoke during the afternoon plenary. Church Pension Group staff also gave a presentation. Workshops throughout the day ranged from Christian education and Sunday School to working alongside immigrants and refugees. Latino/Hispanic Ministries livestreamed several online worship and keynote presentations through its Facebook page.

Most Nuevo Amanecer participants came from the United States and Province IX, which comprises seven dioceses in Latin America. Some participants came from Canada, including the Rev. Maurice François, a priest who oversees multicultural and multilingual ministries in Toronto, Ontario. François told ENS he reached out to Guillén to learn more about how the Anglican Church of Canada can best serve its small but “steadily growing” Latino population.

“We cannot move ahead without the help of The Episcopal Church and Latino/Hispanic Ministries because they have a lot of experience, they have a lot of resources, they have a lot of Spanish-speaking people in the United States,” François said. “Not enough Canadians are familiar with Hispanic ministry.”

About 1,193,800 Canadians, or 3.3% of the country’s population, are of Latin American origin. François also noted that Spanish is the second-most spoken language worldwide.

The Rev. Anthony Guillén and his wife, Guadalupe Moriel-Guillén, hold each other June 5, 2024, at Nuevo Amanecer as they watch a video commemorating Guillén’s 19 years as The Episcopal Church’s Latino/Hispanic Ministries’ missioner.

Guillén said it’s important to understand that Latinos aren’t a monolithic community. He also said that the best way The Episcopal Church can serve Latinos is to “learn about our needs and partner with us.”

“We have a lot of Christian formation, but we [still] have a strong need for Christian formation and leadership development,” he said. “My office just can’t provide every resource that’s needed out there. We need to collaborate. We’ve got to partner with other agencies and institutions, and I’m very open to that.”

Every day of Nuevo Amanecer concluded with worship services and parties, including a special celebration on June 5 commemorating Guillén’s 19 years as Latino/Hispanic Ministries’ missioner.

Curry told ENS in an interview that Latino/Hispanic Ministries is an example of “what’s to come” for The Episcopal Church.

“This ministry is a reminder that God has not given up on The Episcopal Church,” the presiding bishop said.

— Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service based in northern Indiana. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.


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