A Lively & Living Legacy of Lutheran Latino Ministry
Lutheran ministry in Chicago’s Hispanic-Latino neighborhoods has been going on for many decades.
Acknowledging initial outreach on the near northwest side in the late 1950’s, we are nearing the fifty-year milepost. Lay and ordained leaders from many Latin American nations and Puerto Rico, along with many partners from the U.S.A., have contributed to a remarkable mosaic of Hispanic-Latino ministry in Lutheran contexts throughout the Chicago area. Significant inter-Lutheran cooperation also occurred among Chicago’s Hispanic-Latino leaders of various Lutheran judicatories. The Rev. Gale D. Schmidt, who served in Lutheran Spanish language ministries on Chicago’s near west side for over twenty years, recalls that “During the latter part of the 1960’s and the early 1970’s, the Lutheran pastors of (what was at that time)
all three (Lutheran church bodies) joined in a very active and unified committee called “El Comité Pan-Luterana.” The Rev. Rudy Markwald was called to serve at Simon Peter Lutheran Church at 1540 N. Spaulding. A building on North Avenue became a Lutheran Center, offering social ministries and activities. Pr. Markwald was instrumental in opening a lay ministry training center in conjunction with the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Pastors taught courses such as preaching, evangelism, doctrine and liturgy for the lay people of our growing Hispanic congregations. This initiative was repeated in the
1990’s, with a Spanish language diaconal ministry training program offered by a new generation of ELCA Hispanic-Latino ministry leaders. Chicagoland’s Lutheran Latino leaders – clergy and laity — have entered into our common life from many points of origin: The Rev. Abelardo Gonzalez and Nelly Gonzalez (Nicaragua), the Rev. Julio Loza (Bolivia), the Rev. Samuel Acedo (Argentina), Pablo Martinez and the
Rev. Alberto Garcia (Cuba), the Rev. Pedro & Aura Suarez, the Reverends Antonio & Neris Cabello (Venezuela), Horacio Sedio-Peralta (Chile), the Reverends Roberto Navarro, Heriberto Huerta and Hector Garfias-Toledo (Mexico), the Rev. Ruben Duran (Peru), the Rev. Jaime Dubón (El Salvador), and Miguel
& Aura Simball (Ecuador) are among those who have served or are currently serving Lutheran Hispanic-Latino ministries based in Metropolitan Chicago.
Puerto Rico needs a chapter of its own to survey the very significant ties between the isla del
encanto and la ciudad de los vientos when considering Lutheran leadership and ministries in and around the Windy City. Lutheran ecclesial ties have grown closer due to interconnections between our seminaries, families, congregations and the presence of the ELCA Churchwide offices in Chicago. The Reverends Edelmiro Cortes, Carlos Torres, +Dimas Planas-Belfort, Jose Miguel Diaz-Rodriguez, Jose Cortes, Lydia Villanueva, Jose David Rodriguez, Jr., Lydia Rivera-Kalb, Juan Cobrda, and Myrta Robles as well as lay leaders such as Carmen
Rodriguez, Jennifer DeLeon have collaborated as “Luteranos Latinos.” Our ministries have been enriched by the gifts and dedication of lay professional/parish staff members such as +Carmen
Soto (Iglesia Luterana de la Trinidad) and +Marina Fontanez (Iglesia Luterana Santa Maria / St.
Mary’s Hope). Bilingual pastors and lay leaders have served faithfully in partnership with Latin American colleagues, mentors and protégés. Among them, one recalls Pastors Gale D. Schmidt, John
Larson, Robert Alsleben, Gary Mills, John Johnson, Gary Marshall, Susan Birkelo, Paul Erickson, Anna-Kari Johnson.
All of these and others have served in lively Lutheran congregations in Latino contexts, in collaborative ministry. The life and witness of el pueblo de Dios in these Hispanic-Latino, bicultural and multicultural settings is a gift and blessing. (For a current listing of Ministerios Latinos in the Metro Chicago Synod, see http://mcselca.org ministerios3.html.)
Second in a Series
This is the second installment in a two-part series accenting Lutheran theology and ministry in Hispanic-Latino contexts. Our opening article, by the Rev. Dr. Ivis LaRiviere Mestre, highlights the “emergence” of Latino Lutheran voices in Evangelization. She speaks from pastoral experience and from her current position at the ELCA’s churchwide office. Her accent is on “accompaniment.”
Accompaniment is evident in many relationships between ELCA Synods and Lutheran church bodies around the globe. Service-oriented travel provides a “dual mission trip experience.” Pastor Lou Quetel bears witness to the transformative power of such international journeys. Pr. Thelma Megill-Cobbler (“Receiving Guadalupe: An Appreciative Response” to Maxwell Johnson’s essay in Vol. 12 No. 1) and Pr. Antonio Cabello (“Images and Icons”) view their subject matter through “incarnational lenses.” Things are not the same ever since “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Branching out from our issue theme, Gregory Holmes Singleton, probes a “Diversity of a Different Sort.” Theological diversity, he notes, “has received significantly less attention.” On behalf of the Let’s Talk Editorial Council, our author advances a call for dialogue among us and with our ELCA seminary presidents on this contrast. In his “On the Way” column, Ben Dueholm anticipates the ELCA’s denominational treatment of a polarizing issue. “Anxious Exegesis and Immigration” addresses issues which come to life poignantly in Hispanic-Latino communities in our region, most notably Carpentersville and Waukegan. Biblical interpretation and our language for God, both items of contention in our times, are taken up by Pr. Frank Senn in his “As I See It…” column and by Pr. Wolf Knappe in his essay. Both serve to stimulate dialogue among us.
Readers’ Responses are Welcome
For nearly twelve years, Let’s Talk has stirred reflection and dialogue on critical issues in theology, ministry and the common life of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod. The impact of the journal has expanded, as
evident in the Readers’ Responses published in this issue. The Editorial Council encourages such response, whether of essay, letter or note length.
Of Assemblies and Anniversaries…
We anticipate that the next issue of Let’s Talk will feature coverage of the ELCA’s Tenth Churchwide Assembly at Navy Pier, including on-location reports and essays from Metro Chicago Synod voting members. Another future issue will feature four exemplary congregations doing significant community ministries within the Metro Chicago Synod. Later this year, our readers are warmly invited to celebrate the first twelve years of Let’s Talk. Plan now to attend a festive banquet and gathering at the Polo Café 3322 S. Morgan in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood on Saturday, November 10th, 2007 at 5:30 pm. Tickets will be $50, with proceeds benefitting the ongoing publication of Let’s Talk. You may reserve your tickets by contacting Pr. Nicholas Zook at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him at 773-281-1225. We’ll announce an engaging guest speaker, the menu and other special features of the evening at a later time.