Tom Kay can sum up the first Spanish-language Faith Alive weekend in five words: “The Lord was with us!”
Kay, a Faith Alive team leader based east of Dallas, Texas, says the June 10-12 event at Iglesia San Miguel, a burgeoning Anglican mission in the Diocese of Fort Worth, was the best he ever has attended, despite the fact that he does not speak Spanish.
From Kay’s first meeting with San Miguel’s vicar, Fr. Sergio Diaz, “the Spirit of the Lord was abundantly present ... and intensified through the planning process.
“Fr. Diaz’ team, led by Veronica Castillo, was one of the best-organized and devoted groups that I have been associated with. They began sharing freely at committee meetings weeks before the scheduled weekend!”
But that wasn’t what impressed Kay most. What convinced him that a Spanish-language weekend – something Faith Alive had never attempted in 40 years of bringing renewal programs to Episcopalians, Anglicans, and other Christian congregations – could be a success was the evidence of how much San Miguel already had achieved.
With an average Sunday attendance of over 260, the congregation is based in a ranch-style home on a corner lot in economically-challenged Southeast Fort Worth, where unemployment is well into double digits. All the renovation work on the property has been done by church members – including the transformation of a former three-car garage into worship space.
“Some of the first words I heard from Fr. Diaz as I met with him in late 2010 to discuss an all-Spanish Faith Alive weekend were, ‘We worship in a three-car garage! Come and see!’
“It was true. Their sanctuary is a converted garage, with a capacity of about 110 that has been remodeled to accommodate their three and sometimes four services each weekend. I thought it might present some logistical problems, but the Lord was there to assist with three tents erected on their grounds.
“While the outside temperature at their event was in the high 90s most of the weekend, it was nothing compared to the inner fire created by the Spirit of the Lord in the 300 participants.”
The leadership team came from Wisconsin, Florida, and South Carolina – many at their own expense. Fr. Diaz asked members of two nearby congregations in the diocese to assist by serving meals and looking after children. The vicar also raised the considerable funds needed to underwrite the weekend. In all of this, Kay remembers “Fr. Diaz’ great love for this church, and his holy pride in their accomplishments and their desire for the Lord.”
With the church nave turned over to the youth group for their program, and several portable classroom buildings occupied by the younger children, about 150 adult participants met under tents on the lawn. There was time in small groups and time for praise, teaching, and testimony. Signs in the little band shell proclaimed, “Fe Viva!” – Faith Alive!
Meanwhile 64 children took part in a program of crafts, song, and Bible instruction to ‘put on the armor of God.’ Over three dozen teens signed a rock that has become a permanent witness to their Fe Viva weekend. During their presentation time under the tent, they sang for the adult participants and leaders. At one point on Saturday morning, Fr. Diaz was spotted in the snaking conga line, dancing with his parishioners.
Cora Werley, a member of Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church in Fort Worth, helped lead the children’s program. “I will always remember,” she says, “the girl I’d worked with on Friday and all day Saturday who said she wanted me to join their church so I wouldn’t have to leave.”
By the time Werley and the rest of the team did have to say their reluctant goodbyes on Sunday, it was an accepted fact that the Holy Spirit truly had come to stay at the church in the three-car garage, much as God Himself had blessed a stable with His presence long ago.
On Monday morning, Fr. Diaz shared his joy by e-mail: “Fe Viva is the best thing that ever happened to San Miguel. Thanks for your help and prayers.”
A few days later, the leadership team received a note of thanks from Zeneyda Sanchez-Ruiz, one of the volunteers from Florida.
“I am thankful to God and to you all for having been chosen to work on this Faith Alive weekend. For me, who supposedly was going to work and give a testimony of my faith to others, the most beautiful testimony was the one that I received from all those present.
“There was companionship, joy, love, humility, smiling, and immense desire to serve others. I went to give, but in reality came away with more faith in my heart than I had taken there. I came away convinced that I lived in the church of God, where we share pain and joy in harmony one with another, and practice brotherly love with compassion, love and humility.”
Story and image credit: Diocese of Fort Worth