Rev. Elizabeth (Liz) Marrero is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church serving as coordinator of the Western Jurisdiction’s Hispanic/Latino Ministry work. Commissioned at the Peninsula-Delaware Conference session in June 2018, she is based in the California-Nevada Conference Center in West Sacramento, Calif. The position relates to the denomination’s National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry. She recently sat down with California-Nevada Conference director of communications, Dr. Larry Hygh, Jr.*, to talk about the work. The conversation is as follows:
What most excites you about being newly assigned to be the UMC Western Jurisdiction Hispanic/Latino Ministry Coordinator?
Being new to jurisdictional work can be challenging and exciting all at once. One gets to see how all areas of work come together for the fulfillment of the mission, a vision, plan or strategy.
It excites me to be able to be part of a jurisdiction that is leading the way into a new era in the life of the Church, of a jurisdiction that is standing boldly, firmly, intentionally, and strategically in the areas of leadership and congregational development, and advocates for those who hurt and are marginalized.
I am excited to be able to walk together with the jurisdiction to bring new ideas and learn from the devoted and vibrant leaders of the west.
Hispanic/Latino Ministry has lots of different components and flavors. Coming from the East Coast, the west offers a new perspective of ministry and the new is always refreshing and revitalizing.
How does it feel to be a Global Ministries missionary?
I feel privileged to be part of a larger body that intentionally envisions and practices ministry “from everywhere to everywhere.” It is a diverse community that passionately surrenders to the service of God wherever they are called.
At the same time, I feel challenged by the expertise of others who have come first, of those who have been leading the way for a long way. I am encouraged to learn and grow with and into a body that is committed to go where the needs are.
What are some of your goals in this role?
My goals are aligned with the goals of the Western Jurisdiction Hispanic/Latino Ministry. They involved assisting the Western Jurisdiction Hispanic/Latino Ministry Council in the implementation of the strategic direction for this ministry; the ability to continuously identify the right resources to undergirding the strategic direction and accomplish the work defined by the jurisdiction.
It includes bringing unity and clarity in the definition and work of the strategy previously defined, which is important for the fulfillment of the plan developed by the Western Jurisdiction Hispanic/Latino Council.
How can you assist conferences/churches in the Western Jurisdiction?
In order to be able to assist the Western Jurisdiction, it is important to get to know each other. This is achieved by establishing relationships through open communication and visitation to the local congregations and the different conferences.
Honesty and objectivity are vital to outline and identify the right needs and processes unique to each body. Objectivity is not always easy, but it is possible and a powerful instrument of growth.
How can local churches in the Western Jurisdiction assist you?
Local churches can assist through partnership and guidance. This partnership and guidance come in the form of open communication about their needs, history, and collaboration without reservations. It is about openly sharing what has worked and what has not worked in the past, in comparison with the assets and needs present within the community of faith and the surrounding community.
It is important the churches have the desire and hunger for the new.
What do you want folks to know most about Hispanic/Latino ministry in the Western US?
Hispanic/Latino ministry in the Western U.S. is intense. Not only because the needs are evident, but because the population in need is larger.
Hispanic/Latino ministry in the Western U.S. is not only about spirituality, but it must also come with a clear strategic plan to be open to see and identify the needs in the surrounding communities to each church and ministry. It is important that the church “engage in deliberate analysis of the community change and alter its program to meet the needs and cultural pattern of the new residents.” (¶122 BoD).
The west is experiencing radical and rapid transition. Therefore, it is important that the local church is “regarded as a principal base of mission from which unjust structures of society shall be confronted, evangelization shall occur, and a principal witness to the changing community” is realized.
It is important that each congregation is open and willing to engage the continuously changing surrounding community.
What resources are available?
- One of the most powerful and effective resources available to the church is Path1 (https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/new-church-starts/floating10) for New Church Starts.
- We also have our leadership development program (https://www.cnumc.org/leadershipdevelopment) which equips our laity to serve in a wide range of capacities in the life of the church.
- Every so often, each conference and/or district offers workshops that help us to stay update and polished in key areas of ministry. For example, the Cal-Nevada conference will be offering a 2-day workshop for pastoral leaders entitled Exploring Your Ministry Style (https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/new-church-starts/floating10); another conference (https://dscumc.org/2018/08/cultural-competency-training-workshop/) is offering a 1-day workshop in the area of Cultural Competency.
- Another great bilingual resource is a page called www.BeADisciple.com in which we are able to enrolled in courses that equip us in the knowledge of Wesleyan education, lay servant ministries, congregational leadership, and others at a minimal cost.
- For those exploring a higher education in the life of ministry (https://www.courseofstudy.org/) the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry provides courses and resources for those exploring the call into pastoral ministry as part-time and full-time Local Pastors.
- The Board of Discipleship Ministries developed a material in the areas of leadership, worship, new church starts, and international ministry entitled #SeeAllThePeople which has evolved from printed material into radio series (https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/; https://blog.umcdiscipleship.org/category/leadership/seeallthepeople-radio-series/; https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/leadership-resources)
- The Upper Room (https://www.upperroom.org/) provides resources for Spiritual Formation applicable to leadership, individuals, and the life of the congregation as a whole.
- In addition to all that, www.umcmission.org helps us connect with the missionaries and missions around the world, Connecting the Church in mission as we make disciple of Jesus Christ; we are called to strengthen, develop, and renew Christian congregations and communities; alleviate human suffering; and, seek justice, freedom, and peace.
Each of these resources expands from the spiritual life of the believer into the life of the church, the life of the community, and into the world.
What has prepared you for this role?
The experiences and lessons learned from my predecessor’s work is not to be taken for granted. In addition to that, there was a training from Global Ministries side-by-side with missionaries from around the world who shared their experiences and lessons learned.
Having been doing Hispanic/Latino ministry and secular work with the Hispanic/Latino population on the East Coast has been of great value in the area of relationship building and understanding cultural differences.
What is a scripture that guides your work and ministry?
Isaiah 43;19 – Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert (ASV).
God is always doing a new thing. We only need to be willing to be part of it, to see it, to be collaborators, to allow it to happen. And, God will make a way even through the wilderness.
Anything else you want to say?
I cannot stress enough the importance of openness, collaboration, objectivity and intentionality.
There are many secular organizations that are, probably, doing better work than the church in many areas. However, the Church, as the body of Christ, has the potential and capacity to offer and provide a wholistic approach, caring not only for the physical needs, but also for the spiritual life of all . . . that, only if we are willing to respond to God’s call to go where we are needed . . . anywhere.
*Hygh is director of communications for the California-Nevada Conference which includes 370 United Methodist Churches with 73,000 congregants in Northern California and Northern Nevada.