When the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board met in Puerto Rico this spring, several board members went on a field trip. The visit to Mision Presbiteriana Rio Grande was the first experience with a new worshiping community for several board members. The first sign that this was not “church as usual” occurred when the drivers pulled up to a small storefront location squeezed between a mechanic shop and a laundromat in a tiny strip mall. Instead of stained glass windows and pews, they saw handmade decorations, vases of flowers picked from local gardens, and a welcoming crew of pastor Eileen Rivas and a few church elders. The space was just about the right size for the 35 attendees who show up regularly for worship.
Many churches with 35 in attendance worry about their ability to do effective ministry and reach out into their communities, but this congregation had no such worries. “What motivates this church is what Jesus taught us, to go to the people,” Rivas said. “As disciples of Jesus, if we can be there to meet their need, that is what we think the church should be about.”
Before the church was officially formed, those belonging to the worshiping community started giving out water bottles in Rio Grande’s public square in the center of town. Presbyterian Mission Agency Executive Director Tony De La Rosa commented that the community at Rio Grande — like the majority of Presbyterian churches — has fewer than 100 members and relatively limited financial resources. “And yet they’re out in the community, establishing relationships and engaging in mission.”
The new worshiping community does outreach in several public housing communities around town where they offer Bible study, family film nights, worship services, women’s groups, Vacation Bible School and after-school activities. When asked how they manage to transport all the people from the housing communities to the church for Sunday worship, the pastor explained, “Oh no, we could never afford to do that. We bring church to them.” Like all of the approximately 400 new worshiping communities springing up across this denomination, Mision Presbiteriana Rio Grande is seeking ways to connect with people outside the doors of the church by going out into the community.
Vera White, Coordinator for 1001 New Worshiping Communities
Let us pray:
Gracious God, as we approach Pentecost, we celebrate this new Holy Spirit activity we see in our denomination in the form of 1001 New Worshiping Communities. We pray for its leaders, staff and the new disciples who are being formed daily. Amen.