In our Hispanic-Latino countries, every day is a celebration of our respective cultural heritages. We live daily the richness of our countries and our history, our customs, the concept of unity in the family, and everything that is part of our daily lives. It is not until we migrate to the United States that we become aware of the diminishing or lack of these elements that form our being. In some places, we have access to the music, the products to prepare our typical dishes, and the opportunity to mingle with people who speak our language. However, there are some who feel somewhat isolated from all that has formed and developed their existence.
Those of us who are part of a faith community, where we are identified as people, feel the support and respect for who we are and why we exist. In the United Methodist Church, we have groups such as The National Plan for Hispanic-Latino Ministry, M.A.R.C.H.A. (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans), Hispanic Women, Hispanic Clergywomen, and others who struggle to defend our cause and advocate for the Hispanic-Latino people. This reinforces our idiosyncrasies and motivates us to go forward in a process of continuous identification as children of God and in defense of who we are and what we can contribute to this nation without assimilating ourselves to the American culture.
Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of Hispanic-Latino people to this nation. This month is not only so that we may celebrate who we are, but also for the whole nation to celebrate with us the fact that we can be part of this nation without abandoning or diminishing our Hispanic-Latino culture.
As defined by the United States Census Bureau, the term Hispanic refers to Spanish-speaking people in the United States of any race. On the 2000 census form, people of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino. More than 35 million people identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino on the 2000 census.
The legislative history of Hispanic Heritage Month goes as far back as 1968, when Congress approved the celebration of a week ffrom September 5 to 16 as Public Law 90-490 on September 17, 1968. In Proclamation 4310 of September 4, 1974, the National Hispanic Heritage Week was approved for September 10-16. In Public Law 100-402, approved August 17, 1988, Congress 100, the change was made from one week to a month, starting September 15 through October 15. This was effective January 1 of the following year. In these proclamations and public laws, it is asked that people of the United States — especially the education community and organizations concerned with the protection of human rights — observe this month with appropriate activities and ceremonies.
There is not enough space to point out all that Hispanic-Latino people have favorably contributed to this nation. From high positions in government, to the field of science, armed forces, education, sports, culinary arts, the film and theater industry, music, dance and other arts, Hispanic-Latino people have made themselves heard. Spanish is the language most taught in the school system, and it is already included in all means of communication everywhere and in every established system.
We know that parades, festivals and parties, radio and televised programs, information via internet, and great local celebrations are held throughout the United States during this special month. Churches cannot fall behind in these celebrations. We must recognize that most of our congregations are made up of representations from many Hispanic-Latino countries. During this year, we have a series of events celebrating whom we represent. Nevertheless, it is extremely important that we become intentionally involved in the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month during September 15 through October 15 this year and every year.
What follows are some possible activities for observing the month.
- A formal dinner with typical dishes and music from the Hispanic-Latino countries represented in your congregations and communities.
- Outside activities for the congregation and the adjacent communities to include typical dishes and music, arts and crafts (for exhibit or to be sold), flags and typical dress from the countries represented, not only in the congregation, but also in the communities and this nation.
- Special worship services, where elements of the Hispanic-Latino culture are included. You may use the hymns in Spanish in The United Methodist Hymnal, the Spanish hymnbook Mil Voces Para Celebrar, the Fiesta Cristiana Resource Book for Worship, and Caribbean Praise and Global Praise (the latter published by the General Board of Global Ministries).
- A Christian parade throughout the surrounding community with floats, banners, people with their typical dress, typical music — all demonstrating the Christian message with Hispanic-Latino flavor.
- Exhibit of books, arts and crafts, and resources showing the contributions of Hispanic-Latino people within and outside the church.
- Contest of paints and drawings showing Hispanic-Latino heritage and/or the landscapes of our countries and their cultures.
- Formal concerts with classic, semi-classic, and/or music interpreted instrumentally (piano, organ, orchestra, and other instruments).
- Guest speakers who lecture about matters and situations that Hispanics/Latinos are facing.
- A children's coloring book that shows our Hispanic-Latino heritage.
- Sermons and Sunday school classes with themes related to this celebration.
- The independence celebrations of some of the countries from South and Latin America fall in the month of September. Combine these celebrations with Hispanic Heritage Month.
Liturgy for the Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month
September 15 through October 15
PRELUDE: "Tenemos Esperanza" (We Have Hope), 129, Mil Voces Para Celebrar
GREETING AND CALL TO WORSHIP
Leader: Welcome to the church of Jesus Christ!
People: We come from different cultures and races.
Leader: All are invited into the doors of our sanctuary.
People: We are adults, children, and youth.
Leader: All are invited to the altar of our church.
People: We are women, men, girls, and boys.
Leader: All are invited to the Table for Communion.
People: We are employed, unemployed, with limited income, and with great wealth.
Leader: All are invited to the baptismal font.
People: We experience God in many ways.
Leader: All are invited to share with us in fellowship.
People: We come, Lord, we come.
Leader: Welcome, all of you!
HYMN OF PRAISE: "Cantemos al Señor" ("Lets Sing Unto the Lord"), 49, Mil Voces Para Celebrar or 149, United Methodist Hymnal
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING (UNISON)
Most merciful God, we give you thanks for the work you give us to do. Our work gives us a sense of importance. We give thanks for the people we encounter daily. People give us a sense of belonging. We give thanks for schedules and routines. They help us feel grounded in a changing world. We give thanks for Jesus Christ. Christ's love gives meaning to all of life. Amen.
HYMN: "De los Cuatro Rincones del Mundo" ("From All Four of Earth's Faraway Corners"), 378, Mil Voces Para Celebrar (in Spanish and English)
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH: Page 271, Fiesta Cristiana
(Someone provide special or some instrumental music while offering is collected.)
DEDICATION OF OFFERING (unison)
God of money and minds, savings and service, land and love. We come at this time to honor you with our substance. All we have, Lord, we give to you. Accept these offerings. May we always remember the source from which they have come. Amen.
READING OF THE SCRIPTURES
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17-21
Epistles: Galatians 5:13-26
Gospel: John 8:33-36
SERMON: The Truth Shall Set You Free
(You may select other themes and Scripture readings appropriate to the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month)
CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP
PRAYER: Farm Worker Prayer by César Chávez (1927-93)
HYMN OF COMMITMENT: "Sois L Semilla" ("You Are the Seed"), 291 Mil Voces Para Celebrar or 583, United Methodist Hymnal
BLESSING AND COMMENDATION
You have come; you have heard; you have listened.
May your understanding cause you to respond.
Go forth into the world and dare to make a difference.
POSTLUDE: Festive Hispanic-Latino Music
The Rev. Liana Pérez Félix is the pastor of Bethlehem UMC in Clarksville, Tennessee. Contact her at 1787 Theresa Drive, Clarksville, TN 37043.