In society, as in science and mathematics, a group that shares common qualities and goals is called a family.
In modern society, the definition of what makes a family unit has evolved tremendously and no longer fits the traditional black-and-white images of 1950s television programs. Now, there are many shades of gray.
And congregations, treasured as "church families" because they are united in faith and purpose, have also experienced many changes. Church families are not perfectly running social establishments but rather, imperfect faith-based units called to gather around the presence of the perfect God. Church members are called to strengthen and nurture one another.
How do we live out our purpose when so many differences divide us? How do we proclaim the gospel, share in fellowship and exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven to the world when politics and behaviors divide us?
These and other questions were addressed at the National Hispanic/Latino Presbyterian Event in San Antonio, July 23-25. The diverse Hispanic /Latino family of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) met to discern how to live up to the great ends of the church as the winds of political change beat against our family of faith.
"Events similar to this one were usually attended by members of our churches whose immigration status kept them from being able to ride on a plane," said the Rev. Hector Rodriguez, associate for Hispanic/Latino-a Congressional Support. "They would rent a big van and come across the state lines to meet up with their brothers and sisters in Christ but the current intensity of the immigration issue in our country has kept them from doing that."
The event, which took three years to plan, did not meet the attendance expectations of the planning committee, led Rodriguez. The immigration status of many Hispanic/Latino church members kept them from participating in the event.
The people in attendance were given the opportunity to learn about the current struggles of the immigrant community, the current laws and the call of Christ to persevere in finding ways of showing love, grace and mercy to our brothers and sisters who are in the eye of the immigration storm.
Events such as the forum led by Julia Thorne, manager for Immigration Issues/immigration counsel of the Office of the General Assembly, made it possible to discuss the current immigration laws and how difficult the requirements are to comprehend and to follow.
Another forum was designed to help participants understand how to put into practice the prophetic call of God to the body of Christ.
Christ calls the church to not be complaisant and conform to the patterns of modern society, but to be an active agent of change and to proclaim what God has done. During this conversation, led by expert panelists on issues of faith, theology and immigration, participants were able to recognize that it is in serving one another that we best change our currents situations.
The groups gathered at this event had a distinctive image, a distinctive mixture of social beliefs and a distinctive faith.
Remembering our baptism vows at the Saturday night celebration event sparked a desire to make a new commitment to each other — a commitment to become a new identity in Christ.
On Sunday morning, as attendees gathered around the Lord's Table to remember together what Christ did, they also remembered that Christians have been called to be a holy nation — people who belong to God.
Through Christ’s blood, people are more than just Hispanics/Latinos living in a different land. Through His blood, we have received mercy and it is through His blood that we are called to be merciful. It is through our deeds and service to one another that the world around us will see that we are a new nation without divisions — a new nation with a holy vision.
We are a family of faith with many different shades of gray but all purchased by His crimson red.
Ruthie Merced serves as assistant to the stated clerk for Central Florida Presbytery in Orlando, Fla.