"Lead me where people need your words, need my enthusiasm for life; where hope is faint, where joy is scarce, just because they do not know You. I give you my sincere heart to express without fear your greatness, Lord. I will have tireless hands, your story between my lips, and strength in prayer." Alma Misionera is a Spanish song from the Flor y Canto hymnal, and this is part of the English translation. These words were fundamental in cultivating my family's spiritual identity as a whole and my understanding of what it means to mean to a baptized person within this community of faith.
My story begins with my father, Rev. Simon Bautista Betances, an Episcopal priest, alongside my remarkable, devout, trailblazing mother, Amarilis Vargas Bautista. Who together built a loving, fun, creative, respectful, faith-filled, justice-oriented family who were raised to be proud of our Latino heritage and African descendants. Church for the four Bautista children wasn't a bore or a thing we "had" to do just because our father was the Priest. Instead, we marveled at being part of different diverse communities of faith where we were so loved, cared for, and welcomed. We were known as the "missional family," wherever my Dad was called to serve, the Bautista party of six served alongside him. Early on, my curiosity towards the Holy Trinity's mystery and who God was calling me to be settled in. God's calling began when I served as an acolyte at the age of nine years old, and in the moments where with my family, we would pray for the healing of one of our beloved church members. In those moments, I felt a yearning to learn more about this gracious and Holy God. When I could share God's Good News with the campers at City Camp in Philadelphia, I was left restless with how I am called to be part of God's hands and feet on Earth.
Some things just don’t mix: Oil and water, bleach and ammonia, churches and debt. Or, so I have always believed.
We have all heard stories about churches that got in over their heads with debt. We have all heard stories about churches that planned on resources becoming available, either because of congregational growth or forthcoming generosity, only to find themselves disappointed and overleveraged. Churches just need to stay out of debt. Or, so I have always believed.
My own congregation recently completed a major capital restoration project. We said from the beginning that we were not going to spend any more than we raised. And, while we did make some exceptions along the way, we generally stuck to it. The overall gap between our actual capital expenditures and our total pledged revenue was only about 5%.
We have all been on many Zoom services over the last year, either at our own church or other congregations near and far, and the observation is there were few to no youth on these Zoom services.
Further, in discussions about the challenges congregation face in the new virtual or hybrid (in-person and virtual) environment, the lack of youth presence is highlighted as a major issue that had not been adequately addressed.
Concerns were as follows:Sunday School Teachers and Youth Leaders need new or updated skillset for this virtual environment to better engage with the youth. They need resources to share issues confronted and receive best practices to move forward successfully.
Pregnancy can be miraculous. When through an act of love a woman and a man join with the Creator in bringing new life into the world, it’s a gift from God. Advances in the science of fertilization, which can extend this process to more people, reinforce the breathtaking wonder of it all.
The manner in which a fertilized egg develops into a living, breathing person draws together a thousand tiny miracles: rapidly dividing cells specializing into fingers and nerves and a beating heart and so much more. Science can document this amazing growth: the first grainy images my wife and I saw of our grandchildren were sonogram photos, taken on their mothers’ bellies. While it wasn’t obvious what we were seeing, the awesome significance was clear.