Even though she’s been on the job for four months, Co-Moderator Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri was officially commissioned this week at her home church, the First Spanish Presbyterian Church in Miami, at a dedication service sponsored by the Presbytery of Tropical Florida.
“It a moment of celebration. It was also a moment of affirmation of the service that God has called Cindy and I to be a part of. It was a moment of great importance for the Hispanic Latino community,” she said. “The presbytery and the congregation were very honored and happy to host and celebrate with the greater church. It also put the church on the map for what it means to serve.”
Cintrón-Olivieri says her church, located in the southeastern corner of the U.S. mainland, was thrilled to be a part of the service.
“We don’t get a lot of people visiting our area, and it felt like a big family reunion,” she said. “Having our denominational leaders here was special. It was just a great reunion to celebrate the calling of the Lord for Cindy and me to be Co-Moderators.”
The Reverend Cindy Kohlmann, Co-Moderator of the 223rd General Assembly (2018), was commissioned by the Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England in August and was more than happy to be a part of her Co-Moderator’s commissioning.
“It was so good to see friends from near and far, and to meet more of the people who have played such an important role in the lives of José Manuel and Vilmarie,” Kohlmann said. “Slowly the sanctuary filled as people battled Miami traffic to be present for an amazing service.”
At the beginning of the service, General Presbyter the Reverend Daris Bultena had words of welcome. “We have very important people in the house ... and those were the people of Jesus who will change this world with love.”
The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), preached for the service, reflecting on the events of the past week, including the mass shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the shooting deaths of two African Americans at a Louisville, Kentucky, grocery store. Nelson said society views faith institutions differently in today’s world.
“I grew up in a small town where individuals respected the church of Jesus Christ. The temple and the mosque were also respected, considered sacred spaces in our society. And those places represented hope in the midst of community,” he said. “I remember over again, the rituals of all of those cultures. They reminded us that God was still alive. We saw individuals come to church who were struggling with their lives, hurting in the midst of divorce and the loss of children and the struggles within the context of the community.”
Nelson said that in difficult times, the church must still be faithful.
“Cindy and Vilmarie, you are called in this present day and age to demonstrate that faith among those who are struggling, to those who forget their presbytery meeting is not worship. For those who forget a session meeting does not replace the power of the Lord,” said Nelson. “To know the work of the Lord is not just in the church but in the world. We come to the church to get ready to go out into the world and make a difference. Your role is to proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ and there is no hierarchy in that. We are called to proclaim the gospel of Christ wherever we are.”
Cintrón-Olivieri also touched on what she sees as hate and violence in the world today.
“It is our desire to see who our neighbors are, but also to see how we can become neighbors to others. If our words are words of hate, violence, and fear, that is the content of our hearts. Our hearts need to be filled with the Holy Spirit,” she said. “As we go to the world and the PC(USA), we will do it in a spirit of love, grace, and giving of ourselves.”
The Co-Moderators say they intend to use the next two years to share the love of Christ and to “know their neighbor.”
“We don’t know when our time will come. We need to try to live every day, loving God and loving the neighbor in concrete ways, not only by our words but by our actions,” said Cintrón-Olivieri. “We must look for ways to be better Christians, citizens, and neighbors, to effect change and make a difference. I think God is calling us to do that now.”