THE WORD AND DEED PROJECT This has been my main concern for the past several years, and is really getting on track, finally. Two meetings were held with the coordinator and the two lead pastors. We went over the projected goals and the accomplishments; real improvements are evident at the same time as it was seen that some time frames were not observed. The desired results? Mixed… in Huizucar there has been significant growth and a lot of work done in getting a second congregation started in a distant community. Santa Tecla has seen the incorporation of three new members, and there is a sense that there is more unity in the group than previously experienced. Both churches see the project with more emphasis on evangelism than development, which is what they locally must decide. I still coach toward a balanced word and deed effort, to reflect our reformed understanding of transforming mission.
A joint meeting of the two congregations was held with limited participation, but a very good time of evaluation and interchange of ideas. I came away with a sense that the members are growing in awareness of the value of the Project, and a willingness to try to participate more. Now a new push to raise more funds is in order. Hint, hint (see page”You can help’!).
Pastors on quite opposite ends of the church/theological spectrum respectively picked me up and dropped me off at the airport. The two plus hours of conversations I had with each of them helped me to somewhat understand the complexities of ministry in El Salvador today. It is almost not too strong to say about the church/mission scene in that country (“the little finger of Central America”) what is commonly heard in Latin America: “little town, big hell”! Even now when over two decades have passed since the Peace Accords, people’s memories are scarred by the ideological struggle and the interpersonal conflicts of who was aligned with whom. Can you conceive of some maximum 420 reformed adherents split up in four tiny denominations with some nine ordained pastors serving ten congregations ?! That is the case, sadly.
So for the past several years I have been making a concerted effort to bring those leaders together for the purpose of getting better acquainted and exploring what are the things in the reformed faith perspective that interests them to self-identify as “reformed.” Finally this past year responding to an intentional monthly invitation, the group has been gradually coalescing. Additionally, there are several other men who are indicating interest in some affiliation as well, as they distance themselves from former alignments and seek out new directions. Interesting is that the name in one of these new churches where I preached is “Sendas Antiguas (Ancient Paths).” That bi-vocational university math professor / pastor came upon reformational teaching through reading church history.
A big question is whether to encourage each of these groups to seek growth each on their own ecclesiastical track, or to try to bring them together in some kind of new uniting church body. The meeting this November did not very consciously address that; if anything, the convener seems to want to proceed very slowly on that front. One of the participating pastors, however, outside of the meeting even proposed a name for a new united denomination! Prayer for discernment is in order, please.
A NEW CHALLENGE
Three years ago Dr. James Skillen of the Washington D.C. based Center for Public Justice expressed interest in accepting an invitation to give some lectures in El Salvador. This is going to happen the first week of February, in combination with the presidential election taking place Feb. 1. Those who know the Center know of its keen interest in helping form leaders who encourage Christian’s participation in civic affairs, and inform the Christian public about how to think in principled ways about involvement in societal issues.
Lectures are being set up in two universities, with the largest pastoral alliance, and with the Reformed Fraternity. These will follow on the heels of the election, so interest should be high and many questions in the forefront of citizen’s minds. More will follow in future posts, but meanwhile your prayers are important for this new ground to be fertile. Should you wish to help fund this effort please contact me, or just designate your gift via ARMA on the Memo line.
Please see a fuller note on this under on the PAGE Jim Skillen in El Salvador