"Welcome One Another:" A Small Church Ministry Reflection
by the Rev. Arnoldo Romero, Priest-in-Charge of St. James', Del Rio
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7
Del Rio, Texas, was established in 1635 by Roman Catholic missionaries, but St. James' was not established until 1883. For this reason, the primary religious affiliation in Del Rio is 22.9% Roman Catholic, with 13% Protestants and 61.7 % claiming no religion affiliation (Dwellics Community Demographics). Furthermore, 83.2% of the entire population is Hispanic, so I believe it’s important to embrace our community’s culture and Catholic roots.
This isn’t just a scriptural calling, but there’s research that backs it up too. The late Dr. Katherine W. Phillips, from Columbia University, said, “We need diversity if we are to change, grow, and innovate.” During her research she found that people in diverse groups work harder, share information more broadly, and consider a wider range of views than those of just one race, culture, or gender. She acknowledged that diversity can be difficult. Hence, giving a group a choice in how much they socialize with others and share personal information can be more beneficial than forced mingling. She concluded, “The environment you will create will be one where difference is normal… If you create that kind of environment in your organizations, in your schools, in your families, you will find that the value of diversity is there for you to capture.”
The Sources of Transformation, which are at the center of everything we do as a church, are a natural way to do this. Prayer and worship are at the center of all we do - Holy Eucharist, Compline, and prayer. As we study the scriptures, we enlighten our minds, engage our hearts, and school our bodies to live our baptismal identity with each other and the world. Action is how stewardship (Time, Talent, Treasure) is used to serve and evangelize. Finally, there is life in community (fellowship) that is formed through food, conversation, and listening to each other.
I have known St. James to be a loving and inclusive church ever since I joined its community when I was hired as the Head of School, back in the Fall of 1999. The only difference, now that I’m their priest, is that we are being much more intentional about embracing Del Rio’s Hispanic culture, through our Anglo-Catholic traditions. Here are several things we are doing:
- We livestream Compline in a bilingual format (English/Spanish) on Tuesdays and Thursdays, on our Facebook page.
- During Advent, we celebrate "Las Posadas” during a combined church and school Eucharistic service. Children from the church and school serve as acolytes and dress up as Mary and Joseph. Last year, our school parents from Acuña (our sister city across the river in Mexico) provided an authentic Mexican brunch, bolsitas (children’s treat bags), and a piñata.
- On Easter Sunday, we hid Cascarones (hollowed-out chicken eggs filled with confetti) for the children to collect and crack on each other’s head after the service.
- We had a Rogation Days procession, praying for our community, Laughlin Air Force Base, our church, our schools, our ministries, and God’s creation, along with the Litany.
- On the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, we hold a Blessing of the Animals in the Magnolia Courtyard for the church and school community.
- We setup an Altar de Muertos (Altar of Remembrance) for All Souls Sunday, where congregation members can bring pictures of their deceased loved ones to sit on this altar. During the prayers, we call their names, as the congregation comes up to light a votive candle in their memory.
- Other feasts we have embraced are the Feast of St. James the Greater, the Feast of St. Mary The Virgin, and Día de los Reyes Magos (Epiphany). I also have Holy Water available at the church entrance.
Whether your congregation has one or one hundred members of different races, ethnicities, or cultures - make sure they feel included, embraced, and loved.
Our Book of Common Prayer is available in different languages, both as hard copies and as PDF’s, and simply having that option available is a good start. It’s all about welcoming one another, as Christ welcomed us.
The Rev. Arnoldo L. Romero is the Rector of St. James Episcopal Church and School in Del Rio, Texas. Father Arnoldo is a retired school administrator and a graduate of the Iona Collaborative in the Diocese of West Texas. As a bi-vocational priest, he splits his time between his family, St. James, and his artwork.
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