by Dave Seifert
The Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Rhode Island has a new beginning and a clearer focus. The revamped initiative began earlier this fall, guided by a new commission and a new clergy leader.
The Rev. Dr. Jack Lynch is coordinating the new Hispanic Ministry Commission. He also serves as Hispanic missioner at St. George’s, Central Falls, and as director of a new Ecumenical Institute of Hispanic Ministry that will be providing specialized training.
“The commission is pursuing workshops, small conferences and training opportunities, initially to talk about how to be welcoming greeters in our churches,” he said. “We want to teach how to welcome people effectively and appropriately.”
The commission plans to stage events around marriage, youth ministry and children’s ministry — making sure communities are open to receiving children and giving them opportunities such as going to summer camp or City Camp.
“There’s a lot of excitement on the commission and in our congregations in doing more to project the work church is doing into our communities,” he explained. “That’s not just social services outreach ministries. We want to hold events for Rhode Island and all of Province I (New England), for example. How do we share our story? How do we talk about Jesus?”
Lynch came to the diocese last year specifically to restart the Hispanic ministry along with serving as parish priest at St. George’s. Now representatives from that church and from Ascension, Cranston (the other church in the diocese with a functioning Hispanic ministry), are working with representatives from two Lutheran churches in Providence.
“We are working hand-in-hand with our Lutheran sisters and brothers to share clergy in our churches and involve laypeople on the commission,” he said. “We are working on a vision and strategic plan; we’re also looking at ways to pursue growth within our existing communities and to open new sites for discipleship and worship. Some of those new sites might be at existing churches, some at very different locations.
“It’s a new model — not really church planting,” he added. “It’s developing multi-site communities for discipleship and worship.”
Lynch said the commission also hopes to revitalize churches whose communities have changed.
“Rhode Island has one of the fastest growing Hispanic populations in the country,” he said. “Many existing congregations have experienced dramatic neighborhood change. We want to work with them to be mutually supportive.”
As this diocesan ministry gets restarted, the focus is on the two existing models:
- George’s. Due to a complete change in the neighborhood and opening its doors to those neighbors, this now is a freestanding Spanish-speaking church that attracts 130 – 150 worshipers on Sundays.
- Ascension. This church welcomed neighbors and developed a bilingual, bicultural parish with around 60 worshiping on Sundays.
“We’re focusing on the places directly involved right now,” he said. “We have the full support of our ministry participants and will be inviting others to join us as we make progress.”