New Spanish Language Worship Community Begins Next Month
By Lindsay Peyton - En Español
This past weekend, Servants of Christ UMC in Houston hosted its first Día de la Hispanidad on campus. The church celebrated Latino heritage, complete with prizes, raffles, bingo and piñatas, as well as the culinary delights, tacos, pupusas, casamiento and chuletas. The event also marks the launch of a new Hispanic community at the church. A Sunday sermon in Spanish will begin on Nov. 3.
Pastor Chris McNeill joined the Servants of Christ in 2016, after moving from Florida.
“We needed to build the worship community here,” he said.
Adding more members from the community, however, would prove challenging. The church was mainly Anglo and members were older. The surrounding neighborhood was about 83 percent Latino and all age groups were represented.
Servants of Christ became a part of the Vibrant Church Initiative of the Texas Annual Conference. McNeill said an 18-month consultation ensued, showing the congregation where it could improve in meeting the needs of its community.
VCI also spells out a vision for the future. “We needed something completely different here,” McNeill said. “Making a Hispanic congregation is one of our prescriptions. Slowly but surely, we started cranking that plan into action.”
The first step was finding an ideal candidate to lead the venture. When McNeill discovered Pastor Roig Calzadilla Diaz, he knew he found just the right guy.
Roig Calzadilla Diaz, Yetel Castañeda and son Isaac Calzadilla
Diaz and his wife Yetel Castañeda were both working as software engineers in Cuba, before they were called to the ministry. They started a church in Havana.
“Within five years, we had 500 people in the church,” Diaz recalled.
The couple then moved to a congregation in the middle of Cuba, where they served 900 people, as well as homes churches and mission groups.
“It was a very good experience,” Diaz said. “Then, the Lord called us here. And we’re ready to do things in His name.”
Diaz, Castañeda and their 6-year old son Isaac Calzadilla moved to Houston to become part of the Servants of Christ UMC in September.
“We’ve been working on this for a year, but we didn’t know exactly what it was going to look like,” McNeill said. “Now we have Roig.”
The church has already welcomed Diaz by helping fill their home with goods, including towels, food and toys.
“Roig Calzadilla and his family came with literally with just their suitcases in their hands,” McNeill said. “Now they have a home nearby.”
The church also helped the new pastor get his first car.
Diaz has been visiting the church’s neighbors and telling them about the sermon that will soon be added. “We have a lot of expectations at Servants of Christ,” he said. “Many people have already opened their doors for us.”
By providing Spanish services, he will be able to reach more families in the area. In addition, he wants to add more events for children in the neighborhood.
“We’re want to do a lot of things, little by little,” Diaz said.
Earlier this year, Evis Serrano joined as associate pastor at Servants of Christ. “Evis’ job is to go into the community and bring them to the church,” McNeill said. “Now we’re getting the momentum going.”
Already the church is hosting family nights for the neighborhood and preparing to start its Spanish services on Sundays in November.
The possibilities of building a new community in the church are endless, McNeill said. One parishioner already feels a sense of life coming to the congregation, saying, “Now I have hope that the church will continue after I’m gone.”
McNeill is confident that the new direction will help the church connect more to the neighborhood.
“We want to plan a church for the next 20 years,” he said. “What decisions can we make today to ensure the church will still be here in the future?”