Highlighting Hispanic Voices
By Oscar Rozo
When you think Episcopal, what images come to mind? Liturgy? Organ music? Presiding bishop? When I think about The Episcopal Church, I think about Purepechas and Multicultural Centers.
While serving as the diocesan missioner of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, I have been working with different communities of faith that are hosting liturgies in Spanish as well as communities of faith that are in the midst of dreaming about how to reach out and build long-lasting relationships with Latinos/Hispanics and other minority groups. Among the groups I work with, two groups in North Carolina come to mind: Trinity Episcopal Church in Sprucepine and the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Newton.
Trinity Episcopal Church is located in a small town in the Appalachian mountains, 30 minutes north of Marion, North Carolina. Every Sunday afternoon, members from the Latino congregation gather for the celebration of Holy Eucharist. Eighty percent of the members that gather at this parish belong to an Indigenous tribe in Michoacan, Mexico, the Purepecheas Tribe. Known as one of the first tribes formed in the 8th century and descendants of the original groups of people who migrated to the continent of America from East Asia, the Purepechas migrated to Northern Mexico in the early 14th century. Since then, the Purepecha tribe made its home in the state of Michoacan. However, due to the war between drug lords and the Mexican government, Purepecha descendants have been pushed out of this region and many members of this community have migrated to northern lands.
Part of our work as a church has been to listen to God’s voice in the long journey and history of this Indigenous people. In the process of listening, we have learned about the many needs this community has. Aware of the lack of resources for this community and other Latino/Hispanic individuals living in the area, we have partnered with churches, local organizations, and groups such as Episcopal Relief and Development to provide financial support, feed those in need, and provide resources to the community. We are building community, empowering people, and developing long-lasting relationships.
An hour-and-half southwest, in the city of Newton, North Carolina, the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany began in 2022 as a community resource known as the multicultural center. Aware of the diverse voices living in this area of the state, the church and the diocese partnered to open a center that focuses on providing spaces to celebrate and learn about diversity. Our multicultural center provides classes in English and Spanish as a Second Language, music (guitar and piano), and computers and offers pastoral care and support to minority groups. Our goal is to use this center to build bridges with minority groups, the larger community, and the church.
When I hear the term Episcopal Church, I think Purepechas, I think multicultural centers, I think new opportunities to grow and learn from the diverse voices that are present in our communities. What does The Episcopal Church look like in your neck of the woods?
Oscar Rozo is the diocesan missioner for Latino Hispanic ministries in the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. Oscar is originally from Bogota, Colombia. Oscar is married to the Rev. Elizabeth Tester, who serves as priest in Western North Carolina. They have a son and daughter, Ezekiel and Miriam.