For Rev. Lori Tapia, interim national pastor for the Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries (CPOHM), there is no time to waste.
Although the office has existed in some form since 1981, first as Disciples Home Missions’ Hispanic Binational/Bilingual Fellowship, and then as an independent ministry since 1992, the last five years have been different.
Tapia says the ministry has morphed and grown.
CPOHM now works with more than 170 Hispanic churches across the United States and Canada, with more than 6,000 members – representing every state in the U. S., every Latin American country, and several countries in the Caribbean and South America. CPOHM also partners with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico, which is home to more than 100 Disciples congregations.
While these Hispanic churches and communities have been a part of the Disciples family far longer than its official ministries, over 100 years in many cases, CPOHM continues its work to connect Spanish-speaking communities to each other, and to other expressions of the Church.
The office is actively working to demonstrate who they are “as a diverse community in all the different ways to be the Church,” Tapia says, with an awareness initiative that includes social media, with the slogan #laObraNOW. The slogan was launched in the December 2016 Hispanic Board Meeting, and introduced to the general church during CPOHM’s report at the 2017 General Assembly.
CPOHM’s initiative aims to address three issues: identity, resources, and connection.
By tackling these concerns simultaneously, Tapia says, CPOHM is asking “how are we ensuring that we’re an intricate part of this church, that we’re involved in all aspects of the local, regional and general church?” She sees CPOHM’s role as serving as the liaison to incorporate Hispanic voices “fully to the table.”
To solidify the community’s identity, the office wants to make sure relevant resources are made available. Historically, underrepresented populations lack access to resources, Tapia explains. For example, if a ministry is present at a regional assembly, but there is no one to explain that organization’s work in a person’s language and cultural context, then people won’t know that the organization’s resources and opportunities are available to them.
With grant funding, CPOHM has also added a specific focus on developing young leadership across Hispanic Disciples communities with its first-ever young adult commission.
In 2018, CPOHM will host four learning conferences for leaders aged 19-35. Tapia says the goal with these events is to empower and learn from young leaders, by teaching the history and polity of both the Disciples and Hispanic Ministries, facilitating reconciliation trainings, and providing opportunities for networking and leadership development – to serve young adults in unique ways, to “empower and equip them to be the voice that God is calling them to be.”
By directing resources to developing leaders, Tapia hopes the #LaObraNOW initiative will help form connections – between individual Disciples, communities, convenciones, congregations, regions, and general ministries.
“We’re celebrating right now in Hispanic Ministries. We’re celebrating that it’s a new day, and honoring the legacy that has brought us here. It’s not about people – it’s about the movement God is doing among his people, and God is doing some really amazing things right now.”