Transforming communities – ECF’s Spanish Language Resources

This article is also available in Spanish here. Este artículo está disponible en español aquí.

“Is this available in English?” is the best compliment I’ve received, as the Episcopal Church Foundation’s (ECF) Spanish Language Resource Consultant. When I started working for ECF four years ago, I began hearing this question everywhere I went and it brought a huge smile to my face every single time. Thirty years ago, when I was welcomed into the Episcopal Church, the resources available to Spanish speakers were minimal. And when you did find resources in Spanish, they were bad translations, not culturally sensitive and poorly designed. While the Latino/Hispanic ministries grew in most of the churches that invited Spanish-speakers, the resources were not improving, and leaders like myself in the Spanish ministry wondered if we were really welcome.

Since then, many churches that have welcomed or started Spanish-language services have changed from two separate congregations in two languages to one congregation in two different languages. This shift created a need for effective resources in Spanish and ECF responded. Our original Spanish content and resources have since helped several congregations who are involved in Spanish or bilingual ministry in their faith walk. Leaders can find resources on any topic from evangelism to stewardship in two languages on our websites, here and here, and YouTube channel.

One of the growing pains of Latino/Hispanic Ministry is that although there are mixed vestries, the vestry members are largely monolingual – they speak only English or only Spanish. With mixed vestries, there is a greater need for good resources in Spanish. Not only does ECF offer articles, videos, and webinars dedicated to vestries or Bishop’s committees, but we also offer the Spanish edition of the Vestry Resource Guide, Guía de recursos para juntas parroquiales. I have received reports from many congregations who use the Guía as part of their preparation. Some have short discussions of a pre-assigned reading, some partner up to read portions of the Guide during the week/s before their meeting, some vestries use it as part of their retreat, and some even read it during their meetings. The current edition is revamped to be not just another translation but rather a contextualized version in Spanish which includes culturally sensitive content and images.

The goal of ECF’s Spanish Language Resources is to move beyond simply translating material published in English, to something more transformative. We work with Latino leaders in Latino ministry, sharing their challenges, their hopes and their successes with others through articles, images and videos. I hope that through our resources people in the wider church can come to realize how important Latino/Hispanic ministries are for our Church. People often say that the Church is dying —it isn’t. Visit a Latino congregation and you can see the Church thriving.

Our webinars in particular, are now more interactive. We have a two- or three-person panel with a moderator and the participants are encouraged to share their experiences and ask questions. A new offering, Un cafecito con Sandra (A Cup of Coffee with Sandra), is a 30-minute informal conversation via Zoom and Facebook Live with an expert who shares their knowledge, speaks candidly and answers questions all while drinking some coffee together. These two webinar styles were designed taking into account the informal and story-driven style of Latino/Hispanic communities.

Another challenge of Latino/Hispanic and Spanish or bilingual ministry is that although these congregations are growing, most are not sustainable. All but one of the Latino/Hispanic congregations that are Spanish-only are missions. Stewardship is the pathway to sustainability, and personal and church financial literacy is the key. We are partnering with the Lilly Foundation to offer Financial Literacy Bootcamps to help both clergy and lay leadership learn more about basic financial literacy, sustainability and personal and church budgeting. .

Our first Spanish Financial Literacy Bootcamp was a game changer. I knew ECF was producing excellent resources in Spanish and even more since I joined the team, but hearing people share how well-designed and necessary the resources were, reminded me of what we used to have to work with thirty or even fifteen years ago. Again, leaders asked if we had the handouts, PowerPoints and presentations in English because they wanted to share all of it with their English-speaking congregants. I am so used to asking if something is available in Spanish, that hearing it the other way around still startles me. As part of the Latino/Hispanic Ministry in the Episcopal Church, sometimes we feel isolated, alone and in somebody else’s church. ECF’s Guía de recursos along with articles, videos, webinars and emails in Spanish, are bringing essential information and encouragement to leaders in Latino/Hispanic congregations and creating transformative community at the same time. As we continue to expand our body of Spanish resources in a world where Latino/Hispanic ministries grows steadily, we will seek ways to invite and include as many voices as possible.

Sandra Montes is ECF’s Spanish Language Resources Consultant. She serves the Church as musician, translator, speaker, consultant and writer. Sandra taught for 21 years in public education and has a doctorate in education.