Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Over the next few weeks, you may see more about this celebration of many who trace their ancestry to Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Spain. What is this observance; why is it important for the church; and how does it open mission opportunities?
What is Hispanic Heritage Month, and why does it start in the middle of September?
Hispanic Heritage Month began as a nationally observed week-long celebration in 1968. Then in 1988, a year after the LCMS Center for Hispanic Studies was formed, national festivities honoring the Hispanic population grew to a month. A week was hardly enough time to even begin acknowledging all the historical, cultural, scientific, artistic, literary, and theological contributions of Hispanic Americans.
We kick off the celebration today because on September 15th, five Latin American countries, Costa Rica; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; and Nicaragua, gained their independence. Three other Latin American countries celebrate their freedom this month as well, including Mexico, whose Independence Day is tomorrow.
Why does it matter, especially for the church?
Hispanic Ministry is not an effort new to Lutheranism. The earliest recorded efforts of Hispanic Lutheran ministry in Texas go back to the 1920s, and what began as ripples are quickly becoming a Gospel tsunami. The Center for Hispanic Studies in St. Louis has greatly increased its enrollment since its inception in 1988, and Hispanic ministries are developing across Texas at a rapid pace.
Nearly forty percent of Texans are of Hispanic descent (39.7% – according to census.gov), a tremendous portion of our mission field! Through efforts to acknowledge, bridge, celebrate, and expand the Hispanic population of God’s kingdom, we anticipate the multiethnic anthem of praise before his throne, pictured in Revelation 7.
How can you and your church join the celebration?
Hispanic Heritage Month is a great opportunity to celebrate the Body of Christ, formed by peoples of All Nations. It is also a great opportunity for our congregations to highlight and promote the missions and mission work among the Hispanic/Latino communities. Here are some ideas of how your ministries may celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month:
- Dedicate a Sunday during this month to recognize the Hispanic members in your congregations or community, along with their contributions, during service (with their permission).
- Include prayer petitions for Hispanic missions/countries during worship.
- Host an international potluck after a special service, serving food from Latin America.
- Invite a Hispanic missionary to preach/teach and share about the Hispanic mission.
- If you host a Hispanic ministry or have Hispanic members, invite them to incorporate and lead Spanish/bilingual elements in the liturgy during worship (the Lord’s Prayer, Bible readings, benediction, a song, etc.).
- If you host a Hispanic ministry or have Hispanic members, invite them to help organize a “Hispanic Heritage Month Festival” or “Festival of Nations” (with games, food, custom dances, music, pinatas, etc.) and include the community at large.
While Hispanic Heritage Month does not have deep liturgical roots in the church year, it is nevertheless a wonderful opportunity to better recognize, enjoy, and bless our neighbors with the love of God. Join us in recognizing and celebrating the image of God that unites all cultures, classes, ages, and nations in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.