Reopening Resources for the Hispanic Church
Interview with Revs. Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero on A Safe and Contextualized Reopening
By Kent Annan and Jamie Aten
It goes without saying that the Church is comprised of many peoples, languages, and cultures. This is something worth celebrating but it is also something needing our attention when considering reopening. Resources must be accessible to congregations and leadership of all cultures and languages. The National Latino Evangelical Coalition is seeking to address this with their resource, Guidebook for Church Facilities Re-Opening.
Revs. Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero are the co-founders of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, a coalition of Hispanic Evangelical congregations and leaders equipping the Church for Gospel-centered transformation. Gabriel and Jeanette are pastors at Calvario City Church, a Latino-led multiethnic Assemblies of God church in Orlando, Florida.
JA: Why did the National Latino Evangelical Coalition set out to write this guidebook?
GS & JS: The National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) wrote a guidebook in both Spanish and English to equip Latino churches in the United States and Latin America for their reopening protocols in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The guidebook is contextualized to the worship practices of Latino churches and cultures. Many manuals or guidebooks could not address the contextualized liturgy and practices of the Hispanic church, so we intentionally incorporated the best of the CDC protocols with our learnings of Hispanic worship practices to have a fully contextualized and multi-lingual manual. Many Hispanic congregations were asking for something in Spanish or specific to their multiple realities and cultures.
KA: What is the primary takeaway you hope readers will learn from reading your guidebook?
GS & JS: The primary takeaway from this guidebook is that congregations and worship spaces must consider the safety of congregants a high priority even as they seek to gather for worship and praise. Pastors and leaders can balance a great worship experience with safety and good hygiene. Also, pastors should take note of their local context as each region, state, or municipality may be at different stages of readiness for re-opening.
JA: What are some insights from your guidebook that could help readers support a friend or loved one?
GS & JS: The guidebook reminds us of our Christian ecclesiology of compassion and mercy. That even in our crisis, we prioritize vulnerable communities like the elderly, children, immigrants, and persons with pre-existing conditions. Self-care and compassion are both critical for the witness and health of our congregations and communities.
KA: If you could encourage the Church today with a few thoughts, what would they be?
GS & JS: The history of the Church has seen many crises and each time we have responded with wisdom, sobriety, and prudence. Now could be our finest hour of service and compassion. We are mindful that the response of Christianity was birthed in adversity and flourished even in the most difficult times of persecution, peril, and pandemic. In time, we will also overcome this pandemic.
JA: What Bible story or passage has been speaking into your life recently?
GS & JS: In this time, we have been reflecting on the Resurrection narrative of John 20:1. The Gospel reminds us that “while it was yet dark” the woman brought perfumes to the tomb. The hope of the Resurrection remains even in the shadow of death and persecution. This Bible story reminds us that the paradox of suffering and hope was present on the First Easter and is still with us even in this pandemic. One Irish poet underscores for us that “hope is the last thing to die.”
KA: What are you currently working on related to COVID-19 that you would like to share about?
GS & JS: Presently, we are working on continuing to train Hispanic evangelical churches on re-opening protocols and being prepared for the recent spikes of COVID-19 infections around the world. We have trained over 3,000 congregations and leaders, and the manual is being used across Latin American and the United States. Multiple webinars in Spanish are being distributed broadly and this includes training on responding to the financial stresses and self-care challenges for pastors, health-care providers, nurses, doctors, and front-line workers.
Self-care and burnout have been two of the major areas of need that have required our full and urgent attention. Caring for the caregivers is an important ministry within the Hispanic church which, together with the African American and Native American communities, have had some of the highest rates of COVID-19 deaths and illnesses during this pandemic.
Jamie Aten, Ph.D. is the Founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute and Blanchard Chair of Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL). His most recent book is A Walking Disaster: What Surviving Katrina and Cancer Taught Me About Faith and Resilience (Templeton Press).
Kent Annan, M.Div. is Director of Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership. He is author of You Welcomed Me: Loving Refugees and Immigrants Because God First Loved Us (2018), Slow Kingdom Coming (2016), After Shock (2011), and Following Jesus through the Eye of the Needle (2009).