St. Timothy’s in Herndon, VA receives grant to support growing Latino ministry

St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, Herndon
Posted May 21, 2024

Latino ministry at St. Timothy’s

Earlier this month, the Episcopal Church announced the awarding of 40 Becoming Beloved Community grants to support racial justice, healing, reconciliation, and creation care efforts throughout the world. St. Timothy’s Church in Herndon, VA was the recipient of one of the “Impact Grants” in the amount of $9,350 for its ongoing work in Latino Ministry.

The narrative abstract for St. Timothy’s grant proposal read, in part: 
St. Timothy’s is an Episcopal Church that worships God in English and Spanish, striving to be “One St. Timothy’s”/ “Un Solo San Timoteo.” We aim to grow as one congregation of two cultures by deepening our existing relationships, equipping Latino congregants to share in leadership, and creating opportunities for cross-cultural fellowship and mutual understanding. To continue towards this goal and the Episcopal Church’s “Becoming Beloved Community” commitment, we plan to augment our current ministry to our Spanish-speaking congregation by supplementing our weekly Spanish-language Eucharist with a comprehensive evangelistic outreach and Christian formation program, led by a full-time bilingual priest.

Latino ministry at St. Timothy’s

The awarding of the grant occurred as St. Timothy’s indeed welcomed its first full-time bilingual priest, the Reverend Mario Melendez, in April 2024. Padre Mario, who hails from Puerto Rico and most recently served in the Virginia Beach area, comes to Herndon with his family (wife, Catherine, and son, Thomas) and a passion and energy for the Gospel. He will serve the Latino/x and Spanish-speaking community as well as doing work across the breadth of parish life at St. Timothy’s.

St. Timothy’s ministry to Spanish-speakers in Herndon began under the Reverend Brad Rundlett (St. Timothy’s Rector from 1995-2014, Rector Emeritus since 2023.) In 2005, Brad and members of the congregation were among the leaders in the community working to establish a day laborer center in the area. This occurred after an opposition group tried to force undocumented workers out of the community. Subsequently, leaders of (what would become) the Saturday night service sought St. Timothy’s out because of its reputation in the community for inclusion and hospitality. St. Timothy’s began a Spanish-language Eucharist service in 2012 which quickly grew to a core group of 50 parishioners from the Latino community in Herndon and the surrounding areas.

The Spanish-speaking presence at St. Timothy’s has since gone through several iterations and models, with the relationship between “Saturday night” and “Sunday morning” sometimes being closely felt, other times more distant. For example, in 2022, a Community Garden, named “Rooted in Herndon”, was planted on St. Timothy’s campus and featured the hard work, planning, and maintenance of both Anglo- and Spanish-speaking members. Likewise, our annual retreat to Shrine Mont and Family Day Picnic witness joyful collaboration, fellowship and worship as “One St. Timothy’s.”/ “Un Solo San Timoteo.”

The Reverend Charles Cowherd, Rector, and the Reverend Mario Melendez, Associate Rector, pose in front of St. Timothy’s new signage.

However, the lack of a full-time Spanish-speaking priest on staff at St. Timothy’s tended to mean that the Latino portion of the congregation was not able to grow into its full identity and place within the parish. And, although the faithfulness of many kept it going through the difficult seasons of COVID, staff transitions, and the like, there was always the sense that God has been calling the community into something more.

With the support of this Becoming Beloved Community Grant, St. Timothy’s will be able to increase its outreach to the local Latino community and grow as ambassadors of reconciliation and healing in the world.

The grant application ends with these hopes and dreams:

We intend to be a multicultural worshipping community, secure in our Episcopal identity, diverse in our linguistic and cultural expression.

We intend to be a beacon of God’s light and love for those who have found the Episcopal church from other denominations.

We intend to be a sanctuary for those who feel discriminated against in the larger culture, and a refuge for those seeking a safe space to be their authentic selves.

We hope that we can continue to strengthen the bonds, spiritually and relationally, so that we may more fully live out God’s dream for our community.