Reflection: 2013 Latino Ministry Conference #LMC13

This post was written by Jennielle Strother (@EMjennielle), VP for Enrollment Management at Seminary of the Southwest.  

I have spent the past two days attending the 2013 Latino Ministry Conference, hosted on our campus.  The conference is coordinated by the Rev. Al Rodriguez (@padrealrod), the rector of St. John's Episcopal Church and adjunct faculty member at Seminary of the Southwest.  The gathering included presenters who explored the use of Social Media, market and demographic analysis and the design of specialized worship and music that appeals to the young and bilingual Latinos.

All of the sessions have been wonderful and there was a vibrant back-channel of conversation on Twitter. My biggest take-away from the conference was not the information that I consumed, it was realization that we, as a society, have a lot of impressive data about how the Latino population and culture in the U.S. is growing, and that the situation overall is very complex.   I am impressed with the Episcopal Church's Strategic Vision for Reaching Latinos/Hispanics and am inspired by the clergy who were in attendance and part of the conversation.

I am a “New Generation Latina” (NGL), a term used to describe a segment of the U.S. population that fuses their Latin roots with their American way of life and experiences.   As a first-time attendee, I did not know what to expect.  The first session I attended was about the use of Social Media in the Church and delivered entirely in Spanish by the Rev. Edgar Giraldo Orozco (@episcopaliano), Digital Missioner in The Episcopal Church.  While I consider myself bilingual, I am not a native speaker, and the Rev. Orozco's session was a challenge for me.  However, it was a refreshing experience and I was ready for day two.    

After polling the attendees at the start of day two, the Rev. Canon Anthony Guillén (@misionerolatino) announced that the majority of the day's sessions would be delivered in English.  The majority of attendees were bilingual, however, there were a handful of English-only and Spanish-only attendees.  I was impressed by how the attendees adapted, whether it was to help translate to the person next to them or if someone asked a question in Spanish, the presenter would answer the question in both languages.  

Overall, this conference was filled with people passionate about Latino Ministries and they did not let language become a barrier.  I witnessed people jump head first into their "discomfort zone", including myself.  If a session was delivered in Spanish, not one English-only speaker got up and left.  They stayed. They listened. The same happened with the Spanish-only speakers during a session delivered in English.  

Why am I focusing so much on the language? Because it is important to recognize that the tendency is to view it as a barrier, but at the Latino Ministry Conference, it was viewed as an opportunity and it was handled beautifully.  

How can you experience the Latino culture in order to understand it better?  Is it by venturing outside your comfort zone and just being present?  Tell me more about your experiences.