The third time proved to be the charm for the young people and Episcopal Youth Community (EYC) leaders at Christ Episcopal Church in Norcross.
Twice, their hoped-for pilgrimage to Ireland had been scuttled by COVID-19. This June their persistence paid off.
The excitement of the pilgrims was palpable in their Facebook post from Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport.
“Originally planned for June 2020, rescheduled for June of 2021, and now minutes from boarding in June 2022. We are headed to Ireland, are grateful for your love and support, and can’t wait to tell you all about it!”
By the time they left for Ireland, the group was made up of different youth since many of those originally scheduled to take the eight-day trip had graduated and gone to college.
The new group, comprised entirely of Hispanic youth from Christ Church, faced financial challenges, said youth leader Karen Bass.
“We ended up having three fundraisers and an anonymous donor who made up the shortfall,” Bass said. But even the financial challenges proved to be positive.
One fundraiser was a quinceañera, a coming-of-age ceremony for Hispanic girls, which was both successful as a fundraiser and provided an opportunity for Christ Church’s English- and Spanish-speaking congregants to become acquainted, Bass said.
The Rev. Irma Nohemi Guerra, Associate Rector at Christ Church, said she plans to find more ways to open the two congregations to each other.
She said Christ Church welcomes Hispanic members.
“You can pray and worship God while remaining yourself, without having to renounce your culture or traditions; a church that welcomes you with open arms regardless of your gender, preference, race, origin, social status,” Rev. Guerra said in a message marking the beginning of Hispanic Awareness Month which runs from mid-September through October 15.
“We are a church that welcomes the doubts of those who approach it and tries to answer all the questions, without pretending to have all the answers.
“We are a church that preaches the values of the Kingdom of God, celebrates its diversity, and recognizes the richness of each individual and the values of their culture,” she said.
Guerra, recently appointed Hispanic Missioner to the Diocese of Atlanta, said that along with helping parishes start Hispanic congregations, she will urge existing Hispanic congregations to worship with and get to know the English-speaking fellow parishioners.
Christ Church was founded as a mission in 1978 and has grown by continually meeting the needs of its neighbors. Its thrift shop provides low-cost clothing and household goods while supporting the church budget and funding specific projects.
Other outreach ministries founded by Christ Church include Rainbow Village, which now provides a home for thirty families, along with programs that instill self-development and accountability. Through Norcross Community Ministries (NCM), Christ Church collaborates with other congregations by hosting Vacation Bible School for families served by NCM.
Christ Church is just one of the parishes through which the diocese reaches out to Hispanic communities with joyful worship and spiritual growth in the Episcopal tradition.
The Diocese of Atlanta has been blessed by a steady increase in membership and the planting of new Hispanic congregations. Funding of these congregations is an example of the diocese and individual parishes partnering to support the continued growth of these vital ministries.
Click to learn more about Hispanic Ministries.