Bridging the “Brecha Generacional” in the Latin@ Church

We all know that the modern Church faces a challenging intergenerational gap, a disconnect between church elders and young people. Bridging this dived between age groups is tough for any faith community, but even more so for those that also seek to preserve an immigrant culture. “Latin@ youth are facing different issues than their parents or grandparents did,” says Priscilla Rodriguez, Administrative Coordinator of McCormick’s Center for the Study of Latin@ Theology. “Youth feel like the clergy and their elders don’t engage with their issues, and the [Latin@] Church doesn’t know how to address this.” Latin@ youth often prefer to worship in English as opposed to their elders’ Spanish, they are very involved with immigration reform advocacy, and they have very strong—and different—visions for how the Church can best serve them and their communities. However, the majority of Church leaders, clergy and laity, are much older and have very different backgrounds, and are at a loss for how to address this intergenerational gap that has led to declines in membership and activity.

545866_543040292457661_1540020653_nEnter the Center for the Study of Latin@ Theology and Ministry, McCormick Theological Seminary’s resource for the Latin@ Church in Chicago. The Center collaborates with clerical and lay leaders to research and analyze issues in the Latin@ Church, develop programming to meet Church needs, and to educate and empower Chicago Latin@ leaders to address challenges in their communities. For the 2013-2015 research and action term, the Center has devoted itself to understand the challenges and strengths that the intergenerational gap brings, publish curriculum and other resources for churches, and develop workshops for clergy, youth, and lay leaders. This research and ministry project began in the fall of 2013, when Rev. Claudio Carvalhaes (who was later hired as an adjunct professor beginning in 2014) led a workshop on the importance of fostering youth leadership.

Students Eddie Rosa-Fuentes and Vimary Couvertier-Cruz have been working with the Latin@ Center on this project for the past 9 months. They designed a survey for Latin@ youth and clergy and are currently in the process of analyzing the results. The students have also had the opportunity to develop educational programs and materials for church
leaders, plan worships and workshops, and network with Latin@ theologians and ministers who lend their expertise to the project. It’s an amazing opportunity for students as they are able to see firsthand the challenges the Latin@ church faces and learn how to organize communities to respond to those challenges. The theory behind this ministry can be taught in the classroom, but the hands-on experience that Eddie and Vimary are getting is unique.  The work they have done with the Center has given them the skills to exegete church communities and to develop programming and ministry that is both effective and needed.

All this is done in pursuit of the Center’s main goal: to cultivate a new, prophetic theology in the Chicago Latin@ context. “We want to empower the Latin@ community,” said Eddie. “Through these research projects, trainings, and workshops, we hope that the community will put aside all the denominational differences and work together, that it will spark conversation and inspire the churches to engage in social issues.” In addition to the two-year research and action projects, the Latin@ Center coordinates educational opportunities for students from Chicago area seminaries, organizes lecture series for Latin@ scholars, and publishes its research and resources for wider use. In the fall of 2014, the Latin@ Center will coordinate educational events based on the intergenerational gap research findings, organize community engagement opportunities for seminary students, and continue to develop new models of ministry.

If you are interested in learning more about the Center for the Study of Latin@ Theology and Ministry, please visit their website or contact Priscilla Rodriguez. The CURE will keep you up to date with workshops, lectures, and other opportunities to become involved with the Center’s amazing ministry.