The New Kansas: Reaching Our Spanish Speaking Neighbors
By Tom Herrick
When Dorothy looks in around in wonder and exclaims, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” she could easily have been in any one of our neighborhoods in the Mid-Atlantic region. So much has changed in such a short time that it’s difficult to recognize it as home.
When my family moved to Centreville, Virginia, from Houston in 1994, most of our neighbors were Anglos who spoke English as their first language. By 2000, the census data revealed that the Asian population in our zip codes had grown over 1000% in ten years. One thousand percent! The Spanish-speaking population had grown over 500% during the same period.
At a recent Christmas gathering in my neighbor’s home, I looked around the room and realized that I was one of a very few whose first language was English. The others in the room spoke Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Sudanese, or Spanish as their first language. Population trends throughout the region show that my neighborhood is not unusual. Unlike Dorothy, we’re not trying to get home – we’re already there. It’s just that home looks and sounds a lot different than it used to. Welcome to the New Kansas!
To look more closely at these changes, let’s narrow our focus to just one ethnic group – the Hispanic population. In a recent article, Bob Centa makes these observations on the Hispanic Realities in North America:
- The growth of the Hispanic population in American has exceeded all estimates. Between 1970 and 2000 it grew by 25.7 million. It will nearly triple to 102.6 million by 2050 and become ¼ of the US population (Source: Current Population Survey, March 2002, PGP-5)
- Hispanics have spread throughout the country faster than any previous immigrant group. (Source: “Latino Growth in Metropolitan America,” The Brookings Institution Center on Urban & Metropolitan Policy and the Pew Hispanic Center)
- The first generation (the immigrants) has become the largest segment of the Hispanic population (Source: Pew Hispanic Center, Roberto Suro and Jeffery Passel, The Rise of the Second Generation, October, 2003)
- The use of the Spanish language has increased in the past two decades. (Ibid) Spanish language television captured more teens nationwide than MTV, more men than ESPN and three times as many viewers as CNN.
- Hispanics are showing more receptivity to the Evangelical Gospel than ever before. Fr. Andrew Greeley indicates that 23% of Hispanics are joining Evangelical Protestant churches every year.
In an effort to reach the growing Hispanic population in the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, Truro Church and The Falls Church teamed up to begin Comunidad Hispana. Begun by the Rev. Pepe Zubieta, Comunidad has been offering services in Spanish to the Hispanic Community since the late 1990’s. After Pepe’s retirement, the Rev. Carlos Pellot has faithfully continued the work (now located at Truro Church) for the past 8 years. Some DOMA congregations, such as The Falls Church and Restoration, have been offering English as a Second Language classes as a means of serving the Hispanic Community and building relationships that can provide opportunities for evangelism. These efforts have proven very fruitful in overcoming cultural and linguistic barriers. Yet, in examining population projections, it became very evident that we needed many more congregations like Comunidad Hispana in our diocese—and across the Province.
I believe God is working to reshape the Anglican Church in North America to more closely resemble the New Jerusalem described by St. John in Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
As we morph from being the New Kansas to become the New Jerusalem, we are trusting God to give us the boldness to overcome cultural and linguistic obstacles to reach those of other ethnicities. By his grace and in his power, we welcome its emergence and trust that he will teach us to navigate this new terrain.