During my first few years serving Spanish-speakers I had to be sneaky. We had a big, nice Gospel book in English – not so much in Spanish. There were no Spanish-language lectionary books to be had. So, because I did not want my Spanish speakers to feel like second-class citizens, I would print out the Spanish-language Gospel, cut it down to size, and paper-clip it into the English Gospel book. Not a great fix, but it was better than nothing.
It took years of pressure, much of it coming from the Commission on Hispanic Ministry in Texas, to get Church Publishing to produce Spanish-language lectionary books. Now my Deacon can cart out a nice Gospel book, and all we have to do beforehand is mark the day’s Gospel.
We are playing a serious game of catch-up in this church in terms of welcoming and honoring our Spanish-speaking members. Despite the fact that Spanish-language worship is one of our fastest growing segments of the Episcopal Church, and despite the fact that within less than 50 years Latinos will be the largest ethnic group in the country, we are way behind many churches in translating materials into Spanish and approving meaningful liturgies that reflect the strong faith of our Spanish-speaking members.
The SCLM, to its credit, has moved to begin to rectify this problem. There are three proposals before GC: A069 which includes efforts to produce better translations of the BCP (including Spanish, but also French, French-Creole, and Native American languages), A064 authorizes a new Book of Occasional Services 2018 and includes directions on celebrating Las Posadas and Día de los Muertos and Our Lady of Guadalupe, and A070 authorizes a new translation of the 1979 BCP into Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole.
These are good efforts that can use some tinkering. They are good because the church is recognizing the need for better translations of the BCP, not only in Spanish, but in other languages. They are good because the church is recognizing services of import to many, though not all, Latinos. Some work needs to be done to provide more theological reflection before finalizing these services.
The choice of Latino-focused liturgies in the proposed revised BOS (A064) need some more careful thought and broader input. No doubt, we could use some formal endorsement of Las Posadas, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Día de los Muertos celebrations. However, there are also other more pressing needs. I’d say we need a common service for Quinceañeras far more urgently than any of the other three (with the possible exception of Our Lady of Guadalupe which I will discuss next). We also need services for a Presentación (both a short one celebrated at 3 months, and a longer one at 3 years). Broader input from a wide range of Spanish-speaking Episcopal congregations is needed before making a final determination of what services are needed and in what order.
Also, all the new materials are only in English in the BOS. I have done one English-language Quince in my years of service, and no English-language Posadas, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, or Día de los Muertos celebrations. I’d love to see an amendment asking at least for translations of these proposed services. Even better, how about composing these services in Spanish and providing English translations!
Finally, I am disturbed by the seeming lack of theological reflection behind these proposed additions. One of the best things the SCLM did behind the proposed same-sex marriage rites was to produce a theological background for the rites. For some reason, this background work is nowhere to be found in the documents distributed by the SCLM, but we desperately need such a theology.
For example, not all Latino members of the church see a celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe as necessary or even good. There is huge internal disagreement over including her in Episcopal veneration. She is not venerated in the Anglican Church of Mexico. You won’t find her image in the Anglican Church of Mexico or in churches led by priests trained there. If this comes as a surprise, it indicates the need for more, and wider, theological reflection before producing a liturgy. Furthermore, the popular theologies and practices around Our Lady of Guadalupe are incredibly diverse, yet in the rite only one of her aspects – that of the protector of the poor – is present the proposed service. Again, if the marriage rites merited a theological background, the veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, so important for many (though not all) of our brothers and sisters from Mexico, also deserves such reflection.
The SCLM rightly deserves some praise for taking seriously the needs of the fastest growing segment of our church. More time and thought are needed to ensure that the rites developed meet the needs and express the faith of these members. The rites outlined and developed in the proposed BOS and those desperately needed but not proposed merit just as much theological reflection as any rites we might develop in this church. They are not mere add-ons to the BOS. Let’s not skip the first step of the work needed to ground these rites in theology that is both sound and Episcopalian.