Home First UMC, San Jose, Shares God’s Love with Congregation, Community

First UMC, San Jose, Shares God’s Love with Congregation, Community

By Barbara Dunlap-Berg

San Jose 2
The San Jose church reported 15 professions of faith and two baptisms in 2022.

Spanish-speaking church receives One Matters Award in the California-Nevada Annual Conference.

“First United Methodist Church welcomes anyone with open arms and no judgment,” said Senior Pastor Gerardo Vazquez-Padilla.

Receiving the One Matters Award during the 2023 California-Nevada Annual Conference, the downtown San Jose church reported fifteen professions of faith and two baptisms in 2022.

“Pastor Gerardo is enthusiastic about sharing God’s love with all people, especially those Hispanic immigrants who need community to support each other and grow together in faith,” said the Rev. Samuel Hong, El Camino Real District superintendent. “The ways in which he shows them his great compassion include providing food that he prepared for them.”

In 2021, First UMC transitioned from English-speaking to Spanish-speaking. Today, the Rev. Jorge Luiz F. Domingues noted, it “is actively reaching out to the Hispanic population, many of whom have a Catholic church background and who walk or take the bus to church.” Domingues is executive director of connectional ministries for the conference.

Crediting the growth to the church’s outreach, Domingues said the congregation includes seventy-six professing members (seventy-three Hispanic and three white, and forty-five women and thirty-one men). Other constituents number two hundred.

The church’s selection for the award did not surprise the pastor.

“Current members bring along their families and friends, and those individuals decide to become members because they like the atmosphere and [look forward to becoming] part of a community,” Vazquez said.

San Jose 1
Senior Pastor Gerardo Vazquez-Padilla said First UMC San Jose welcomes anyone with open arms.

Community outreach is vital. An open pantry serves about one hundred families every Wednesday. Youth gather for Bible study on Friday evenings.

Working with nearby Wesley UMC, Vazquez said, enriches the congregation’s ministry as the churches “collaborate with holiday events such as Silent Night and La Posada (The Inn). The people we serve are of low-income families, and many work long hours and thus are unable to attend worship.” Some lack transportation or a driver’s license.

Many members, he added, “are new to the country. They are still in the process of getting used to the laws and regulations of a new [environment].”

Acceptance is the key to the congregation’s success, Hong believes.

“First UMC carries out its ministries based on progressive theology, unlike many typical Hispanic congregations in California-Nevada Conference as well as other conferences,” he said. “This congregation is LGBTQ friendly and welcomes those who are socially, culturally and economically alienated.”

Vazquez sees a positive future for First, San Jose.

“The year 2023 was also of many fruits,” Vazquez said. “We received eighteen new members and had four baptisms. We continue to harvest with the help and blessing of God.

“This is the work of the Holy Spirit. I am just a servant. The Holy Spirit is walking with the church.”

Admitting that congregational growth takes time, Vazquez believes that “persistence will pay off in the end.”

He encourages churches in similar circumstances to “keep going and trust those you believe in. Faith will follow that same path.”

Every year, Discipleship Ministries partners with annual conferences by offering the One Matters Award to one eligible congregation at each annual conference. The award, consisting of a commemorative plaque and a check for $1,000, is delivered to the congregation during the annual conference session.

Barbara Dunlap-Berg is a writer and editor in Carbondale, Illinois.

Contact Us for Help

View staff by program area to ask for additional assistance.



* indicates required

This is a bi-monthly email where you’ll receive the highest quality resources to support your disciple-making process. Everything from Helpful Articles, New Webinar Series and Podcasts, Discounted Teaching Series, and so much more!

Please confirm that you want to receive email from us.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please read our Privacy Policy page.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.