This document, as originally presented, is a mission plan in progress. A second draft of the full strategy was received in April of 2006 as a foundational document for Hispanic-Latino ministry by the Northern Illinois Synod’s Outreach Committee. That committee established a Hispanic ministry task force shortly after the strategy was received.
Development of the vision involved meetings in various locations during six years and two consecutive synod assembly forums. Over sixty lay and clergy leaders took part. Written response forms were completed and received from many of these participants between the first and second strategy drafts.
What follows are the main components of the strategy’s latest draft, condensed and updated. (Internal synodical notes for budgetary and committee implementation have been omitted.)
As servants of God, we are called “to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.” Our prayer is that we might be given “faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand, O God, is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (LBW p. 153)
+ In name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
+ En el nombre del Padre, del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo. Amén. +
Our Lord’s Mission Imperative
The Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ is “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Thus Matthew 28:19-20 provides the rich scriptural soil in which our central ELCA mission is rooted: Making Christ Known / Dando a Conocer a Cristo.
All Nations: At Our Doorstep
Clearly our context is one in which “all nations” have come to our doorstep and to our neighborhoods, cities and towns. The Great Commission coupled with the Great Commandment of our Lord Jesus — “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) — combine to shape our ministry and common life.
Our “strategy,” indeed, all churchly strategizing, must be guided by God’s Holy Spirit and girded by continual prayer. It is the place of strategies to establish goals, identify necessary resources and chart proposed paths of action. The public embrace of this mission strategy in synodical assembly would call to account all who “walk together” as the body of believers known as the Northern Illinois Synod (NIS) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We recognize that we are a people “on the way” and that the urgency of need and “ripeness” of mission opportunity call us more to engaged action than to detached analysis. To that end, this strategy can only be regarded as an instrument put into the service of the Good Shepherd, the Crucified and Risen One.
The hope is here expressed that local initiative, funding and creative resource development will continue to be coupled with funding from the synodical and churchwide expressions of our church body to implement this vision for ministry.
To that end, the congregations of the synod are called to renewed prayer for domestic mission, and to assessment of gifts and partnership possibilities which could fortify Latino mission and ministry as we press on together in faith and hope during this first decade of the twenty-first century.
In response to the wide array of need and potential, and mindful of the importance of focus, a prioritization of goals and action steps is indicated in the following pages. Level I goals are recommended for priority action, to the extent possible, given the vision, desire, personnel, resources, and funding. Level II goals are important Latino ministry development areas, to be considered as our vision expands and additional personnel, resources and funding are secured.
II. Our Context: Life in a Multicultural Mosaic
The Latino population surge has been in the lead in making the Northern Illinois area a multicultural mosaic. The Hispanic-Latino population continues to increase within the geographical area of the Northern Illinois Synod.
We have been in a kairos time for outreach, hospitality, mutual ministry and evangelization within this growing portion of our population. The extended metropolitan Chicago area is one of the top ten Hispanic-Latino centers in the USA. Extraordinary Latino growth has occurred and continues in the collar county regions of the Northern Illinois Synod: McHenry, Woodstock, Crystal Lake, Bolingbrook and Joliet are among these communities. The other urban centers of Rockford, Rock Island and Moline have long-established Latino populations and districts which are on a similar, ascending growth pattern.
Town and country pop-ulations are very familiar with this pattern as well. (Witness the 35% Latino student population in the Plano, Illinois public school district as but one example here.)
More than 33% of Latinos nationwide are under the age of 18, indicating that this is just the beginning of the population surge. This growth does not rely on immigrants to reach anticipated levels, which are that by 2050 Latinos will comprise 25% of the US population.
III. Our Immigrant Roots and our Immigrant Neighbors: Spiritually Invigorated by the Faith of the Newly Arrived
We recognize the remarkable faith vitality of contemporary immigrants from many sectors of the globe, and note that the Latino immigrants are overwhelmingly of the Christian tradition. They bear gifts for the church: Gifts which can renew, refresh, challenge and re-evangelize the church in North America. While the majority of these immigrants are of Roman Catholic heritage, many come without a particular denominational affiliation or are without connection to the church (“unchurched”). In the transition of the immigrant experience it is not uncommon for Latinos to gravitate toward hospitable Lutheran congregations in their new community, especially if the given congregation expresses an awareness and appreciation of the Latino culture and community.
Ours can be described as a ministry of “accompaniment” (ministerio en conjunto) as we walk with our Hispanic-Latino neighbors, in a posture of learning, while also teaching; sharing, while also receiving; advocating, while also being transformed. While immigrants are regarded as aliens, sojourners, foreigners, we do well to remember that none of us has a lasting city here and that we are all pilgrims in this world. “For the Lord your God befriends the alien, feeding and clothing them. So you too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19).
Goal: The provision of a pilot workshop familiarizing Lutheran parishioners with the Latino culture and community in their area. Implementation: By pastors and laity engaged in Latino ministry within the synod, perhaps along with colleagues from neighboring synods and/or ELCA churchwide, in partnership with local congregational leaders who are able to make initial links with Latino community representatives in their area.
A Lament in These Times: Today’s Immigrant Experience
While recognizing the need for and importance of national security in these times, we deplore the ways in which immigrants, especially Spanish speaking immigrants, have been regarded as scapegoats for the nation’s economic ills. Worse, some in our society are seeking to criminalize all undocumented persons — and, potentially, those who assist them.
We grieve the deaths of the thousands who have died while in transit into the United States, drawn by the dream of an extremely modest, sustainable, living wage with which to support not only themselves but also family members in Mexico or other Central American nations.
Goal: This strategy calls for the continued awareness-raising among us concerning the plight and struggle of people living along and passing through the US-Mexico border region and of those who serve these neighbors in Jesus’ name, especially the Lutheran Border Ministry. We will work to support the LBM and strive to deepen the understanding of the realities of immigrant persons, including the undocumented.
We urge all who travel to the frontera or border region (such as recent participants in the 2006 ELCA Youth Gathering in San Antonio, Texas) to contemplate the implications of cruzando (border crossing) from the perspective of the families involved, as well as that of our nation and our hemisphere. As Lutheran Christians we will continually remind one another of our own immigrant past.
Repenting of Racism
We ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness for our failings as individuals, congregations, synod and church body to address and overcome racism in our society and in our faith communities. “Lord have mercy.” “Señor, ten piedad.”
Goals: To encourage the ministry of the synod’s Anti-Racism Team, while seeking out additional resources through ecumenical and local relationships. To facilitate the deeper consideration of racism in church and society within at least two new venues each year (from 2007-2009), including conferences, congregations and retreats. To actively challenge and resist racism when it is apparent in our life together.
IV. Bound Together in Witness, Outreach and Hospitality: Las Posadas
We rejoice in the growing participation of synod congregations in the Advent devotional processions and celebrations known as “Las Posadas.” We give thanks for the hospitality and outreach of our synodical “Las Posadas” host congregations and ministries: Immanuel – East Moline, Our Saviors – Rockford, Salem – Rockford, First / San Miguel – DeKalb, Santa Cruz – Joliet, St. John – Mendota, St. John – Rock Island, St. Paul – Streator, Zion – Rockford, First – Joliet, Theodore Street – Crest Hill, New Life – Bolingbrook, and Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center – Oregon Ill.
Our “accompaniment of Mary and Joseph” in their quest for lodging — their search for a place for the Christ child’s birth — is emblematic of our Christian vocation and our synodical identity (“synod“ means “walking together.”) “Welcome one another, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7).
Goal: To invite the united, prayerful participation of the entire synod (whether or not “in person”) throughout the nine days leading to Christmas each year.
Expanding the Scope of Las Posadas
With thirteen congregations and ministries having hosted Las Posadas celebrations during the past three years, and at least two more joining in the past year, Las Posadas has become a beloved and deeply significant shared outreach and spiritual tradition within the Northern Illinois Synod.
Goal: This strategy envisions each conference hosting at least one evening Posada event each Advent. Implementation: The Bilingual Ministry Resource Center can provide resource materials to participating congregations by late September. A common theme is advisable (such as “In the Company of Sojourners” 2003; “There is Room and Welcome,” 2004, and “Come, Lord Jesus / Ven, Señor Jesús,” 2005. Actual celebration of Las Posadas varies from site to site. Diversity of practice has enriched the overall keeping of the Advent tradition. Additional resource groups may include the worship, outreach and multicultural committees of the synod.
Goal: To fund the distribution of at least 200 bilingual catechisms into each of the communities served by Posada host congregations, in partnership with evangelical outreach leaders of those congregations, leading up to, during or as a follow up to Las Posadas 2007. Additional quantities will be distributed at the 2007 synod assembly in Rock Island. Local congregations will provide their own label with worship and program information, to be affixed to the back of each booklet distributed in their area.
Implementation: Posada host congregations, Synod Outreach Committee, Mission partners. Cost of the new bilingual catechism is approximately $1.00 each when ordered in quantity. This cost can be covered through the mutual support of the host congregations, committees and conference and locally developed mission partner links.
V. Enriching Our Worship Life by Embracing Latino Hymnody
We acknowledge our own multicultural heritage within the Lutheran tradition and recognize continuity into the present day. German and Scandinavian languages once proliferated but then gave way to English dominance in the early- to mid-20th century. Spanish has had a stunning resurgence in the life and culture of the United States as we enter the 21st century. This reality has significant implications for “domestic” mission and ministry.
Unlike previous waves of immigrants, Latin American immigrants find thriving communities served by vibrant commercial districts and global Spanish language media outlets. The proximity to their native lands and ease of travel assure an ongoing, sustaining and replenishing link to their language and cultures.
As an expression of our missional calling and in awareness of our diverse ministry settings, we celebrate the growing array of Latino hymnody. We seek to regularly and intentionally utilize portions of this growing dimension of the church’s song, especially whenever gathered as a synodical worshiping community such as at assemblies, professional leadership conferences, congregational resourcing events, Reformation services, ordination liturgies, etc.
Goal: This strategy calls for the regular inclusion of Latino hymnody and representative use of Spanish language and bilingual (English and Spanish) texts in our life together whenever we gather as a synod.
VI. Fortifying Existing Hispanic-Latino Ministries
Santa Cruz, Joliet, established as a mission in 1991 at Bethlehem, Joliet, became an organized ELCA congregation in 1996 and linked in partnership with First Lutheran Church in Joliet’s City Center (2006). The Santa Cruz congregation is 95% Hispanic-Latino with approximately 250 baptized members. It operates the Casa de Amistad, a parish-based community center.
Zion, Rockford has a growing Latino ministry which offers regularly scheduled Spanish language Bible study and fellowship opportunities and incorporates the Latino/Spanish speaking membership into the ongoing, primary Sunday liturgy of the parish. Zion has been a vital partner and host of Las Posadas.
From 2000 until its closing in June of 2005, the San Miguel Lutheran mission in DeKalb offered regularly scheduled, Spanish language liturgies. Gratitude is expressed for the hospitality of First Lutheran Church, DeKalb, and for the faithful witness of the San Miguel community during the years of its ministry. The “San Miguel Model” of doing Lutheran Latino ministry is acknowledged as a valuable option for ministry.
The ministries of St. John, Rock Island and Immanuel, E. Moline are increasingly attuned to the Latinos in their respective communities. They, too, have offered vibrant and festive celebrations of Las Posadas during the past several years.
Distinctive opportunities and challenges accompany “ethnic specific” mission starts based in existing congregations. This strategy encourages the development of a resource network across the ELCA for those leading these types of ministries.
We celebrate the legacy of hospitality which is evident as a growing number of Lutheran congregations in our synod, themselves established in earlier centuries by immigrants, now initiate or host new Lutheran ministries seeking to serve 21st century immigrants as well as the established, Latino communities which have built up around these congregations. These ministries include the provision of social services, early childhood education, English as a second language, and other adult education programs.
Goal: To provide appropriate support to enable existing and emerging Latino ministries to grow and to thrive. Implementation: At this writing, to be determined, pending the desire of host congregations to enter into this mission field.
VII. Planting of Bilingual or Spanish Language Word and Sacrament Ministries
New models need to be and will be explored. The Latino Ministry Strategy of the Northern Illinois Synod invites and calls all of our congregations and affiliated agencies to unite in outreach and hospitality, intentionally welcoming Latino neighbors to enter into the shared life and witness of our faith communities in Jesus’ name.
Goal: Utilizing a variety of models for ministry, this stategy calls for the establishment of one new Spanish language or bilingual ministry of Word and Sacrament, based at an existing congregation, at a new site or in homes, between 2007 and 2010. Implementation: Sponsoring congregations and/or conferences, with possible collaboration with additional Mission Partners and/or the ELCA’s Division of Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission. Leadership will be sought through: encouragement of Spanish language study by currently called pastors and other rostered and lay leaders, recruitment of bilingual/Spanish speaking leaders and the strategic deployment of bilingual intern pastors. Cost: to be determined by the type of ministry model selected.
VIII. Development of Social Ministries in Latino Contexts
Latino ministries are often initiated through congre gationally based social ministries. Through the teaching of English as a second language, provision of bilingual counseling services (such as through LSSI), sponsorship of food pantries, involvement in church-based community organizing and other ways Lutheran congregations are linking with their Latino neighbors. Models for this approach include the LSSI “Compañeros” program in the Sterling-Rock Falls area and the ELCA “Hispanic Mission Center” network which inspired the founding of La Casa de Amistad, at Santa Cruz, Joliet.
Goal: In addition to the newly established ministries of Word and Sacrament, at least one new, congregationally based social ministry with intentional outreach to and partnership with Latinos will be initiated each year during the same period.
Implementation: This goal will be achieved by developing relationships between prospective sponsoring congregations and LSSI, as well as through congregational networking with existing and emerging community-based social outreach programs. It is noted that in addition to La Casa de Amistad, there are several additional parish-based centers across the country which were pilot projects of the ELCA Hispanic Mission Center initiative. Pr. Ruben Duran can supply detailed information for interested congregations. A need in this area is that of technical expertise to explore and implement 501(c)3 not-for-profit status, when appropriate. Additional resources include grants through the WheatRidge Foundation, particularly in the area of immigrant services.
IX. Resourcing Latino Ministries in Our Synod: Hispanic – Latino Ministry Coordination
A Latino ministry coordinator served the NIS from 2002-2006. Currently, a Latino ministry task force is in place to advance the vision of this foundational document. Level II Goal: A funded and staffed Latino Ministry Coordination office would greatly increase the range and depth of new-initiatives and support in this rapidly growing field.
Spanish Language Study Clusters
Spanish language study groups are currently offered by ELCA congregations in the Quad Cities and Joliet. Additional Spanish language and cultural study opportunities are available through area community colleges and the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio Texas.
Goal: To encourage the continuing study of Spanish by synod staff and support staff members who have committed themselves to such learning.
Goal: To assist pastors, other rostered leaders and lay leaders committed to learning Spanish (or to improving their skills in the language) to become enrolled in an appropriate program. This strategy calls for financial assistance as needed.
Lay Leadership Development
Working collaboratively with the NIS Anti-Racism Team, the NIS Multicultural Ministry Committee and the ELCA’s Division of Congregational Life, an overnight leadership retreat for Latino laity took place in April of 2005 at LOMC under the stewardship theme, “Dones en Accion” (Gifts in Action).
Goal: To offer at least one such retreat annually, to be conducted in Spanish, with an available “bilingual track,” and/or provide similar, appropriate workshops during the annual Congregational Resourcing Event, with a view toward building up and empowering our Hispanic-Latino leaders and the growing number of non-Hispanic bilingual leaders.
Goal: Congregations situated within communities that are comprised of 20% or more Hispanic-Latino residents — and all other interested parishes — will be urged to send representatives to the annual Encuentro (Hispanic-Latino Ministry Encounter) in Joliet.
Bilingual Ministry Resource Center
One of the ELCA’s 60 resource centers, and the only one dedicated to bilingual, (Spanish & English) resources, is located within the synod. The Bilingual Ministry Resource Center (BMRC) is housed within the Casa de Amistad at First / Santa Cruz, Joliet. The lending library and resource collection is available to all Lutheran congregational leaders.
The BMRC is affiliated with the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers. Along with the ALRC, the Joliet-based center was a catalyst in bringing about the publication by Augsburg Fortress of a new, bilingual edition of Luther’s Small Catechism.
Goal: To increase the number of NIS congregations utilizing the resources of the BMRC and to secure gifts and grants that will continue to house, equip and expand the center. Implementation: News and notes from the BMRC will be included in Walking Together. Occasional resource packets are distributed by the Center.
Internships in Latino Contexts
Goal: Recognizing the distinctive opportunities and experience within our synod to cultivate pastoral leaders for Latino/bilingual contexts, this strategy envisions the establishment of one fully funded, Latino-context internship site through collaborative congregational, synodical, Churchwide and/or Mission Partner support, by the 2007-2008 school year.
Implementation: Each Horizon internship generally requires $24,000, usually shared by the site, synod and church wide with each partner providing $8,000. (Source: Julia Vega, assistant to The Rev. Dr. Gregory Villalón, Vocation and Education Unit, ELCA Churchwide office). The Horizon internships proposed here would be specifically in settings which evidence strong, existing engagement in their surrounding Latino community or which have, by congregational and council acclamation, prioritized Latino-bilingual outreach.
In selected contexts, NIS congregations already funding internship years in their own parishes could be approached to seek bilingual candidates for their sites. It is conceivable that, in such cases, a given congregation may deploy their parish-funded intern into a Latino context within their region on a part-time, mission-focused basis.
Level II Goal: To establish a second concurrent and fully funded Latino-context internship site through collaborative congregational, synodical, Churchwide, special fund appeal and Mission Partner support, by the 2009-2010 school year.
X. Nurturing Relationships in Latin America
Much can be learned by experiencing life and ministry in Latin American nations and commonwealths such as Puerto Rico. First advanced at a 2004 Congregational Resourcing Event workshop with Bishop Wollersheim present, this trip could be anticipated as early as 2007 or 2008 to the US/Mexican border region. The global connectedness of the Northern Illinois Synod (e.g. with the Arusha Diocese in Tanzania and the Lutheran Church in India) makes this link a natural.
We are blessed to have several congregations and many individuals in our synod with significant experience in service, educational, and mission support trips to La Frontera and to the interior of Mexico. These include: Our Saviors Lutheran Church – Rockford (Matamoros), Cross of Glory Lutheran Church – Lockport (San Miguel de Allende orphanage) and the diaspora community of San Miguel, DeKalb (Veracruz).
Goal: To sponsor an educational, service, and/or mission support pilgrimage to the border (la frontera) or to another region of Mexico, in the next two years (by mid-2008). Implementation: Refer to the anticipated strategy implementation team or to an interested congregation or group of congregations willing to sponsor such a trip.
XI. Building Faith-based Relationships in Latin America
A remarkable level of activity already exists between Northern Illinois Synod congregations and faith communities in Latin America (particularly in México). Building on the relationships noted above and open to the Holy Spirit’s leading to additional people-to-people links across our nation’s southern border, the prospect of expanding our companion synod program into Latin America is very promising.
Level II Goal: To enter into a Latin American Companion Synod relationship. Significant avenues for immersion in Latin American mission, culture, language, socio-economic realities and spiritual growth would become open to our synod’s members.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +