2017 annual report
Respectfully submitted by Pastor Gary Mills
Worship and Music
Sunday is the central day of the week for the Latino ministry at Advent. As many people as possible are involved in leadership roles in the worship services with lay members serving as congregational deacons, assisting ministers, lectors and ushers; our youth (when present) serve as acolytes, crucifers and communion assistants. The third Sunday of each month is our regular Eucharistic Healing Service, and more and more people understand this to be not only physical healing but healing for all areas of our lives and our life together as a congregation. Regular Memorial Masses continue to be requested and draw many visitors into the worship service, especially from the Dominican and Mexican communities. There are also special home masses during November for Day of the Dead and in December for Las Posadas and the blessing of home altars during Advent and Lent. Our worship time changes to 12:30pm beginning on Sunday, January 14. A congregational poll was taken with unanimous agreement that earlier would be better, even though a 15-minute time change will probably not bring about the desired worship growth that would be possible with a much earlier service time. Most visitors still come because of the sandwich board on Broadway and through personal invitation. Each weekly service is followed by confraternidad (fellowship), with our regular monthly post-worship lunch on the first Sunday of each month. We also periodically have special educational opportunities during the confraternidad. This might be a discussion of worship leadership, new immigration concerns or information, new medical information or opportunities, the need to keep children in school, or as happens most weeks, good fellowship.
Christian Education and Faith Growth
- We continue to be active in the MNYS Diakona lay leadership development classes. Pastor Eduardo Arias from Sion Iglesia Luterana and I are still the primary, non-stipended faculty members. Five Spanish-speaking lay leaders have now graduated from Diakonia and serve as key leaders, and two other Diakonia graduates have completed internships or otherwise been approved by the Diaconate Council, the Synod Director for Candidacy and the Bishop and are now rostered Synodical deacons, called by Advent for Word and Service ministry. Various lay leaders and I keep in regular contact with visitors, those who are ill or homebound and those who are absent from worship, through personal contact, phone, mailings and social media. Later this winter the next year-long continuing Diakonal education component for Spanish speakers who have graduated from Diakonia and wish further study will begin. Pr. Arias and I are the Synod faculty for this educational ministry.
- We continue to grow our seasonal (Advent and Lent) house Bible studies and fellowship, and our Prayer Group is a faithful and solid group of Latino leaders.
- Synodical Deacons, Carlos López and Adolfo Ramírez, continue to work under their calls and are expanding their ministry to include others from the congregation and the community.
- Four regular congregational social events – the Summer Mass and Congregational Picnic, held outdoors, the Congregational Recognition Sunday and lunch, the celebration of Las Posadas in December, and the Three Kings/Epiphany Festival and All-Congregation Lunch and Mass each January – continue to be highlights of the year. The Latino Committee plans these events, including outreach to the congregational and neighborhood community, and in the case of Las Posadas and Three Kings, works with our Advent English-speaking community regarding meal/food planning, advertisement and program content. Over the past few years we have had an increase in English-speaking member participation in Las Posadas, the Summer Mass and Congregational Picnic, and the Three Kings Festival and Lunch.
- First Communion and Confirmation classes in Spanish are offered at various times throughout the year. These have been a solid source for new members and growth.
- After-School Ministry is our primary community outreach program to children during the week, and takes place on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. The program is all-volunteer, with the director and teachers coming from Advent, as well as volunteers from St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Broadway United Church of Christ, and the neighborhood. This year all of the children (grades 1-6) are Latino, though the program is open to all children. This ministry is especially important as it offers individual or 2-on-1 homework help for children who would otherwise not have such opportunity as parents do not speak English, are working, and/or are undocumented and are afraid to have their children in any public after-school program.
- The Spanish as a Second Language (SSL) program, which began last fall, has already proven very popular among the After-School Ministry volunteers, Advent English speakers, and members from several other Manhattan congregations.
- ESOL, jointly run by Advent and Catholic Charities, started in November, is offered each Tuesday afternoon, and is off to a great start. Volunteer teachers come from Advent, various neighborhood congregations and synagogues, and the local community. Students are from several cultural backgrounds and a speak a variety of languages.
- Immigration assistance, both legal and spiritual, continues to be central to our social outreach and proclamation of the Gospel that “all are welcome here.” Our two lawyers continue to offer regular free weekly consultations and, depending on financial situations and validity of immigration status and situation, sliding-scale cost or pro-bono work for all Advent members, not just Latino members. With Keith and Shade, our immigration legal team, we sponsor several immigration workshops and informational meetings throughout the year, as well as assistance with housing issues. Our most recent workshop was held on January 9, and our next one will be held on February 17.
A major challenge for our Spanish-language ministry, as is generally the case in immigrant-related ministry, is the constant movement of people as related to employment or housing opportunities, as well as the movement of other family members around the country. This is especially true for undocumented immigrants which is the case for most of our Spanish-speaking Advent members and their families. Our congregation is virtually a revolving door.
Another challenge for the ministry and a source of loss of many members, is the issue of gang-related activity in the public housing on the UWS and in which the majority of our membership lives (members from outside of the immediate Advent neighborhood do not generally live in public housing). We have lost 9 families, including 27 children or teens, since November 2016 as a direct result of issues related to difficulties in New York City Public Housing. Some families have moved out of the neighborhood, some have sent their children to live with relatives in other cities or states, and some have sent their children back to their country of origin or have returned as a family.
We will continue to grow in worship attendance through outreach invitation to both current members who are infrequently present at worship as well as visitors and new members. The Latino Committee will take this on as a primary objective and ministry this year. Like any congregation, the best way to receive visitors and new members is through invitation by current members. Personal invitation is especially necessary as we lose as many members through movement etc as we take in each year.
A sincere word of thanks to Pastor Miller and Pastor Sudbrock, the Congregation Council and the Latino Committee, and to each of you, the members and friends of Advent Lutheran Church, for continuing prayer, personal and financial support of our Advent Latino ministry. At a time when many in our Church are drawing back from outreach to the immigrant, the stranger, the refugee, we at Advent continue to walk with and grow our presence among God’s people and embrace the sojourner in our neighborhood, around the City and throughout the world.
Pastor Gary Mills