(Nashville, Tenn. – 7/10/2011) – On a Sunday morning packed with activities during the 2011 General Assembly, the Nashville-based Disciples of Christ Historical Society joined the Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries to dedicate a portrait of Disciples minister Lucas Torres Román in ceremonies at the society’s Thomas W. Phillips Memorial Archives near Vanderbilt University.
Also dedicated was a clerical stole worn by Torres and now preserved by the Historical Society. The portrait is the first of a prominent Hispanic Disciple to hang in the archives, said president Glenn Carson, underscoring Torres’ reputation as a godly leader.
The Historical Society blocked the street between its building and the Scarritt-Bennett Conference Center to host the dedication ceremony outside. About 125 people attended the dedication, including members of the Torres family. Guests enjoyed a breakfast prepared by members of Nashville’s Vine Street Christian Church before the ceremony and participated in worship in Spanish at Scarritt-Bennett afterwards.
Participants in the ceremony included Huberto Pimentel, national pastor for Hispanic Ministries, Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Esteban González Doble, general pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico.
The Torres portrait, an oil on canvas measuring 16 by 20 inches, was commissioned by the Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries, Carson said. It was painted by Daniel Feliciano, a building and capital financing adviser with Church Extension and an experienced pastor among Hispanic congregations. A lifelong artist, Feliciano especially enjoys portraiture, he said.
Displayed prominently near a reception areas for visitors entering the Phillips Archives, the painting presents a frontal view of Torres. At the bottom of the painting, the pastor holds the broken halves of a communion loaf.
Feliciano began the Torres portrait about a year ago. "He was my mentor. He was my pastor. He was my role model," Feliciano said. "It’s been a great privilege for me to be able to do this on his memory, on his behalf, and his family, and also on behalf of the entire Hispanic community."
A cherished leader, Torres was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. He pastored Disciples congregations in Puerto Rico and the mainland United States, going on to serve as the second national pastor for Hispanic Ministries from 1993 to 1999, subsequently continuing as National Pastor Emeritus. He died in 2009 at age 75.
Feliciano used a photo of Torres as the basis of the painting. While the artist looked at various photos, one stood out. "This is it," Feliciano thought when he saw an image of Torres officiating at communion. "Not just his face, but his spirit is shown in the photograph," Feliciano felt. "It really portrays his entire ministry."
Alongside the framed portrait in the Historical Society is another frame displaying a clerical stole used by Torres. The stole features the words "Obra Hispana" — literally "Hispanic Work," a frequent Spanish designation for the ministry of Hispanic and bilingual congregations among Disciples in the United States and Canada — embroidered in white across brilliant horizontal lines of yellow, blue, orange, green, and other colors.
The stole was made in Guatemala "with a sense of urgency" in anticipation of the installation of the first board of the Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries during the initial assembly of the Hispanic and Bilingual Fellowship in Orlando in summer 1992, said David Vargas, president of the Division of Overseas Ministries, in remarks during the dedication.
"The stole we are about to dedicate is a symbol of Hispanic people on a journey and of a call to be servants of God," Vargas said. "This stole represents years of revolution — yes, revolution — and struggle for the Obra Hispana to be recognized, and above all, for the need of central pastoral office to serve the Obra Hispana of the Disciples of Christ."
Vargas remarked that he wore the stole as the first national Hispanic pastor for the Disciples, subsequently passing it to Torres, then Pablo Jiménez, the third national Hispanic pastor, and finally Pimentel, the current leader.
Offering the benediction for the dedication ceremonies for the stole and the Torres portrait, Disciples general minister and president Watkins acknowledged the contributions of the Hispanic leader.
"Our pastor Lucas Torres showed us the reality of loving … by loving brothers and sisters," Watkins said. "He came into the world with the force and vision and tenacity of a prophet, who never wavered from seeking justice … and yet, he approached the world with the embrace of a pastor."
Historical Society president Carson observed: "Here is one of the very first Hispanics to have a national role in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)." For Carson, Torres not only called attention to Hispanic contributions, but gifted all Disciples with his particular perspective on life and ministry. "One more prominent worldview, one more prominent understanding, enriches all
of us, because then we’ll look at things in brand new ways," Carson said.
By Ted Parks