The leadership team at Sunnycrest UMC in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has been praying about how they can invite new, diverse, people to know Jesus. Pastor Herman Perez walked into the door one day and asked Pastor Charlie Moore, who serves at Sunnycrest UMC if perhaps he could find a home for a worship service for the Hispanic community in Sioux Falls at Sunnycrest. Sunnycrest is part of the Dakota Annual Conference.
Prayers have been answered. There are more than 80 people that gather on Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. and Sundays at noon to worship the Lord during a Hispanic service. “Our church is looking and feeling different,” says Pastor Moore. “On our walls, you will find the word Bienvenido, or welcome in Spanish.”
Eleven thousand people make up the Hispanic community in Sioux Falls. There are only three services available in Spanish. Sunnycrest is hoping to fill a void by offering a home to Renew, the name of the Hispanic Ministry at Sunnycrest.
Everyone is learning and embracing cultural differences. Pastor Charlie is present at all services—Saturday, 7 p.m., Sundays 8:15 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:40 a.m., noon and 2 p.m., to greet everyone that comes. "I want to show them they are welcome and make it feel like home,” he says.
One of the most significant differences is the passion that people in the Hispanic community share when greeting others and in worship. Moore says, “In general, I and many others at Sunnycrest, are not used to the hugs when we greet one another. We also have to get comfortable with each other’s passion for worshipping in different ways.”
The leadership team at Sunnycrest has been intentional about creating a positive, learning multi-cultural environment. There is always a member of the leadership team at each worship service, church event, or meeting. Services overlap so that people can get to know each other between services. Youth ministry is combined on Wednesday nights.
During Lent, one-midweek service on Wednesday was held with a fellowship meal. Pastor Charlie and Pastor Herman jointly led worship. The sermon series on Wednesday was connected to the sermon weekend services. The pastors washed each other's feet during a joint Maundy Thursday service.
In June the congregation gathered for food and fellowship. “It will be a chance for people to be together, have some fun, and celebrate our diversity,” says Moore. Spanish classes are available at the church starting in June for anyone interested. The leadership team is thinking about ways to blend the worshipping communities and be respectful to cultural differences.
Everything has not gone smoothly. “There have been some people that have asked, why are we doing this,” says Pastor Charlie. ”Our job is to make it easy for everyone to find Jesus. We need to ask the question, how can we make that happen?”
excerpt from a story by Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC
This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.